USC Students for Justice in Palestine

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Archive for May, 2007

Left Turn–“Cementing Israeli Apartheid: The Role of the World Bank”

Posted by uscsjp on May 31, 2007

In Palestine, international powers are eager to implement plans to use the apartheid apparatus of the Israeli occupation—particularly the infrastructure created by the Apartheid Wall—for the establishment of industrial zones, guaranteeing economic dependency and exploitation of Palestinian communities on top of the occupation control.

The Apartheid Wall is a devastating extension and acceleration of occupation policies, designed to annex nearly half of West Bank lands and imprison the remaining population within 12 percent of historical Palestine. The Wall to date has destroyed thousands of dunums (4 dunums are equivalent to one acre) of land, uprooted olive trees, displaced families and communities, and separated Palestinians from their land and other Palestinians. Despite the 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision, which took up the Palestinian call that the Wall must be torn down and affected communities compensated—the construction of the Wall has only accelerated in the last year.

Legitimizing occupation

Global bodies have only increased their support for the Wall and occupation policies over the last year. The G-8 controlled World Bank has outlined the framework for this policy in their most recent report on Palestine published in December of 2004, Stagnation or Revival: Israeli Disengagement and Palestinian Economic Prospects.

In the report, the World Bank adopts the occupation’s strategically misleading terminology for the Wall, referring to it and its connected infrastructure as a “security fence” or “separation barrier.” This move by the World Bank seeks to legitimize the confiscation of Palestinian lands and obscures the reality on the ground in which 80 percent of the Wall’s destructive path deviates from the 1967 Armistice Line, separating Palestinians from other Palestinians, their capital Jerusalem, land, and essential sources of livelihood. (continued…)

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PACBI: British academics endorse logic of boycott

Posted by uscsjp on May 30, 2007

Report, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, 30 May 2007 

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) salutes the historic decision by the University and College Union (UCU) Congress today to support motions that endorse the logic of academic boycott against Israel, in response to the complicity of the Israeli academy in perpetuating Israel’s illegal military occupation and apartheid system.

Academic boycott has been advocated in the past as an effective tool in resisting injustice. In the 1920s, Mahatma Gandhi called for boycotting British-run academic institutions, to increase Indian self-reliance and also to protest the role of those institutions in maintaining British colonial domination over India. In the 1950s, the African National Congress (ANC) called for a comprehensive boycott of the entire South African academy, as a means to further isolate the apartheid regime. To their credit, British academics were among the very first to adopt the latter boycott. Moral consistency makes it imperative to hold Israel to the same standards.  

Israel is now widely recognized as a state that actually practices apartheid, as evidenced in recent declarations by international figures from Jimmy Carter and UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Prof. John Dugard to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils, among many others. During the ongoing occupation of Palestinian land, Israel’s policies have included house demolitions; Jews-only colonies and roads; uprooting hundreds of thousands of trees; indiscriminate killings of Palestinian civilians, particularly children; relentless theft of land and water resources; and denying millions of their freedom of movement by slicing up the occupied Palestinian territory into Bantustans — some entirely caged by walls, fences and hundreds of roadblocks. Throughout forty years of Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Israeli academics have duly continued to serve in the occupation army, thereby participating in, or at least witnessing, crimes committed on a daily basis against the civilian population of Palestine. No Israeli academic institution, association, or union has ever publicly opposed Israel’s occupation and colonization, its system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens, or its obstinate denial of the internationally-sanctioned rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties. Furthermore, the Israeli academy has been in direct or indirect collusion with the military-intelligence establishment, providing it with “academic” research services to sustain its oppression.

This courageous and morally laudable decision by the UCU to apply effective pressure against Israel in the pursuit of justice and genuine peace is only the latest measure adopted by an international community that can no longer tolerate Israel’s impunity in trashing human rights principles and international law. In the last few months alone, groups heeding — to various degrees — Palestinian calls for boycott and effective pressure against Israel have included the British National Union of Journalists (NUJ); Aosdana, the Irish state-sponsored academy of artists; Congress Of South African Trade Unions (COSATU); and prominent British and international architects led by Architects for Peace and Justice in Palestine (APJP).

Once again, the taboo has been shattered. It has now become more legitimate than ever to denounce Israel’s oppressive policies and to hold the state and all its complicit institutions accountable for human rights abuses, war crimes, and the longest military occupation in modern history. The Israeli academy will no longer be able to enjoy international recognition, cooperation, and generous support while remaining an accessory to crimes committed against the Palestinians.

Palestinians are now more confident than ever that international civil society is indeed capable of shouldering the moral responsibility of standing up to injustice and demanding freedom, self-determination, and unmitigated equality for all. (full link)

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John Pilger: Imprisoning a whole nation

Posted by uscsjp on May 25, 2007

In an article for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes how Gaza in Palestine has come to symbolise the imposition of great power on the powerless, in the Middle East and all over the world, and how a vocabulary of double standard is employed to justify this epic tragedy.

Israel is destroying any notion of a state of Palestine and is being allowed to imprison an entire nation. That is clear from the latest attacks on Gaza, whose suffering has become a metaphor for the tragedy imposed on the peoples of the Middle East and beyond. These attacks, reported on Britain’s Channel 4 News, were “targeting key militants of Hamas” and the “Hamas infrastructure”. The BBC described a “clash” between the same militants and Israeli F-16 aircraft.

Consider one such clash. The militants’ car was blown to pieces by a missile from a fighter-bomber. Who were these militants? In my experience, all the people of Gaza are militant in their resistance to their jailer and tormentor. As for the “Hamas infrastructure”, this was the headquarters of the party that won last year’s democratic elections in Palestine. To report that would give the wrong impression. It would suggest that the people in the car and all the others over the years, the babies and the elderly who have also “clashed” with fighter-bombers, were victims of a monstrous injustice. It would suggest the truth.

“Some say,” said the Channel 4 reporter, that “Hamas has courted this [attack]…” Perhaps he was referring to the rockets fired at Israel from within the prison of Gaza which killed no one. Under international law an occupied people has the right to use arms against the occupier’s forces. This right is never reported. The Channel 4 reporter referred to an “endless war”, suggesting equivalents. There is no war. There is resistance among the poorest, most vulnerable people on earth to an enduring, illegal occupation imposed by the world’s fourth largest military power, whose weapons of mass destruction range from cluster bombs to thermonuclear devices, bankrolled by the superpower. In the past six years alone, wrote the historian Ilan Pappé, “Israeli forces have killed more than 4,000 Palestinians, half of them children”.

Consider how this power works. According to documents obtained by United Press International, the Israelis once secretly funded Hamas as “a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO [Palestine Liberation Organisation] by using a competing religious alternative”, in the words of a former CIA official.

Today, Israel and the US have reversed this ploy and openly back Hamas’s rival, Fatah, with bribes of millions of dollars. Israel recently secretly allowed 500 Fatah fighters to cross into Gaza from Egypt, where they had been trained by another American client, the Cairo dictatorship. The Israelis’ aim is to undermine the elected Palestinian government and ignite a civil war. They have not quite succeeded. In response, the Palestinians forged a government of national unity, of both Hamas and Fatah. The latest attacks are aimed at destroying this.

With Gaza secured in chaos and the West Bank walled in, the Israeli plan, wrote the Palestinian academic Karma Nabulsi, is “a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed, ruled by disparate militias, gangs, religious ideologues and extremists, broken up into ethnic and religious tribalism and co-opted collaborationists. Look to the Iraq of today…”

On 19 May, the Guardian received this letter from Omar Jabary al-Sarafeh, a Ramallah resident: “Land, water and air are under constant sight of a sophisticated military surveillance system that makes Gaza like The Truman Show,” he wrote. “In this film every Gazan actor has a predefined role and the [Israeli] army behaves as a director… The Gaza strip needs to be shown as what it is… an Israeli laboratory backed by the international community where human beings are used as rabbits to test the most dramatic and perverse practices of economic suffocation and starvation.”

The remarkable Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has described the starvation sweeping Gaza’s more than a million and a quarter inhabitants and the “thousands of wounded, disabled and shell-shocked people unable to receive any treatment… The shadows of human beings roam the ruins… They only know the [Israeli army] will return and they know what this will mean for them: more imprisonment in their homes for weeks, more death and destruction in monstrous proportions”.

Whenever I have been in Gaza, I have been consumed by this melancholia, as if I were a trespasser in a secret place of mourning. Skeins of smoke from wood fires hang over the same Mediterranean Sea that free peoples know, but not here. Along beaches that tourists would regard as picturesque trudge the incarcerated of Gaza; lines of sepia figures become silhouettes, marching at the water’s edge, through lapping sewage. The water and power are cut off, yet again, when the generators are bombed, yet again. Iconic murals on walls pockmarked by bullets commemorate the dead, such as the family of 18 men, women and children who “clashed” with a 500lb American/Israeli bomb, dropped on their block of flats as they slept. Presumably, they were militants.

More than 40 per cent of the population of Gaza are children under the age of 15. Reporting on a four-year field study in occupied Palestine for the British Medical Journal, Dr Derek Summerfield wrote that “two-thirds of the 621 children killed at checkpoints, in the street, on the way to school, in their homes, died from small arms fire, directed in over half of cases to the head, neck and chest – the sniper’s wound”. A friend of mine with the United Nations calls them “children of the dust”. Their wonderful childishness, their rowdiness and giggles and charm, belie their nightmare.

I met Dr Khalid Dahlan, a psychiatrist who heads one of several children’s community health projects in Gaza. He told me about his latest survey. “The statistic I personally find unbearable,” he said, “is that 99.4 per cent of the children we studied suffer trauma. Once you look at the rates of exposure to trauma, you see why: 99.2 per cent of the study group’s homes were bombarded; 97.5 per cent were exposed to tear gas; 96.6 per cent witnessed shootings; 95.8 per cent witnessed bombardment and funerals; almost a quarter saw family members injured or killed.”

He said children as young as three faced the dichotomy caused by having to cope with these conditions. They dreamt about becoming doctors and nurses, then this was overtaken by an apocalyptic vision of themselves as the next generation of suicide bombers. They experienced this invariably after an attack by the Israelis. For some boys, their heroes were no longer football players, but a confusion of Palestinian “martyrs” and even the enemy, “because Israeli soldiers are the strongest and have Apache gunships”.

Shortly before he died, Edward Said bitterly reproached foreign journalists for what he called their destructive role in “stripping the context of Palestinian violence, the response of a desperate and horribly oppressed people, and the terrible suffering from which it arises”. Just as the invasion of Iraq was a “war by media”, so the same can be said of the grotesquely one-sided “conflict” in Palestine. As the pioneering work of the Glasgow University Media Group shows, television viewers are rarely told that the Palestinians are victims of an illegal military occupation; the term “occupied territories” is seldom explained. Only 9 per cent of young people interviewed in the UK know that the Israelis are the occupying force and the illegal settlers are Jewish; many believe them to be Palestinian. The selective use of language by broadcasters is crucial in maintaining this confusion and ignorance. Words such as “terrorism”, “murder” and “savage, cold-blooded killing” describe the deaths of Israelis, almost never Palestinians.

There are honourable exceptions. The kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston is one of them. Yet, amidst the avalanche of coverage of his abduction, no mention is made of the thousands of Palestinians abducted by Israel, many of whom will not see their families for years. There are no appeals for them. In Jerusalem, the Foreign Press Association documents the shooting and intimidation of its members by Israeli soldiers. In one eight-month period, as many journalists, including the CNN bureau chief in Jerusalem, were wounded by the Israelis, some of them seriously. In each case, the FPA complained. In each case, there was no satisfactory reply.

A censorship by omission runs deep in western journalism on Israel, especially in the US. Hamas is dismissed as a “terrorist group sworn to Israel’s destruction” and one that “refuses to recognise Israel and wants to fight not talk”. This theme suppresses the truth: that Israel is bent on Palestine’s destruction. Moreover, Hamas’s long-standing proposals for a ten-year ceasefire are ignored, along with a recent, hopeful ideological shift within Hamas itself that amounts to a historic acceptance of the sovereignty of Israel. “The [Hamas] charter is not the Quran,” said a senior Hamas official, Mohammed Ghazal. “Historically, we believe all Palestine belongs to Palestinians, but we’re talking now about reality, about political solutions… If Israel reached a stage where it was able to talk to Hamas, I don’t think there would be a problem of negotiating with the Israelis [for a solution].”

When I last saw Gaza, driving towards the Israeli checkpoint and the razor wire, I was rewarded with a spectacle of Palestinian flags fluttering from inside the walled compounds. Children were responsible for this, I was told. They make flagpoles out of sticks tied together and one or two will climb on to a wall and hold the flag between them, silently. They do it when there are foreigners around and they believe they can tell the world. (link)

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Amjad Barham: Silence means a boycott is justified

Posted by uscsjp on May 24, 2007

Recently, Israeli academics have toured the UK to dissuade British academics from supporting a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. The Israelis have made two arguments against the boycott, both of which are seriously flawed. The first, as reported by the Israeli media, is that the boycott “defies the universal principle of academic freedom” and would hurt Israeli academics. The second, variants of which are routinely presented by apologists for Israel, is that Israeli academics are in the vanguard of dissent and are crucial forces for change; the boycott will only weaken them and thus is counterproductive. Such claims are at best disingenuous.As a Palestinian academic, I find the argument about academic freedom insensitive and offensive. Do Palestinian universities somehow fall outside the remit of the “universal” principle of academic freedom? The Israeli academics who argue for their unfettered access to international academic networks, grants, visiting professorships, fellowships and other benefits of the academic system, have paid scant attention to the total denial of the most basic freedoms to Palestinians, academics or otherwise. No association of university professors, academic senate, or professional body in Israel has ever protested the grotesque occupation, which destroys the lives and jeopardises the future of our students and faculties.

Aside from a courageous few, the vast majority of Israeli academics have been resoundingly silent when our universities have been shut by military orders, our access to them obstructed by concrete walls and barriers, and thousands of our students and colleagues jailed for resisting an unjust and internationally condemned occupation. In the Israeli academy, business as usual grinds on everywhere, and academics, in a startling show of insensitivity to their Palestinian counterparts, demand their right to enjoy the benefits and privileges of academic freedom without shouldering any of the responsibilities that come with freedom.

The privileging of “academic freedom” above other, more basic, liberties flies in the face of the idea of universal human rights. How can the academic freedom of a sector of Israeli society be more important than the basic right to a free and dignified life for all Palestinians, academics included? There is more than a whiff of racism in the assumption that the academic privilege of Israeli academics is more valuable than the freedom of an entire people being strangled by an illegal occupation.

The claim that Israeli academics have been a bastion of dissent or a force of opposition to state policies is simply untrue. In fact, Israeli academics have been complicit in maintaining and supporting Israel’s colonial and racist policies against the Palestinians. The academy has been in bed with political military intelligence since its inception, and is a critical node in the ideological scaffolding of the system of oppression. Its members serve dutifully in the military reserves and offer “strategic analysis” and advice to military-intelligence agencies, to name only a few of the ways the Israeli academy is part and parcel of the structures of oppression.

A survey conducted by the Israeli sociologist Yehouda Shenhav proves that between 2002 and 2004 (that is, at the height of the large-scale assault on Palestinian society by the Israeli occupation army), only eight of the 133 sociologists (6%) in the five largest universities in Israel took a moral stand against the occupation; the same ratio was found among historians, and nine percent among philosophers.

Only 4% of sociologists belonged to protest movements, while only 5% signed two different petitions in those two years. What holds for sociologists will be no different for academics in other disciplines. The bottom line is that the Israeli academy has not distinguished itself by taking a moral or a human stand against either the occupation or the racism practiced against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Israeli academics cannot take the moral high ground. The boycott can act as a wake-up call to Israeli academics and energise those among them who believe in the values of justice and equality to break their collective silence and join the forces fighting occupation and apartheid. (link)

· Amjad Barham is head of the council of the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees 

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AP: Israel arrests more Hamas leaders

Posted by uscsjp on May 24, 2007

Israeli troops in the West Bank arrested more than 30 senior Hamas members early Thursday, including a Cabinet minister, legislators and mayors — pressing forward with an offensive against the Islamic militant group.

The roundup came hours after Israeli planes struck what the military said were money changing offices and other businesses in Gaza used to channel funds to Hamas.

Israel has been attacking Hamas targets for more than a week in retaliation for repeated rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli border towns.

The Israeli army said it arrested 33 Hamas leaders in its overnight sweep. The most prominent official taken in the roundup was Education Minister Nasser Shaer, considered a pragmatist in the movement.

His wife, Huda, said soldiers knocked on the door of their home in the West Bank city of Nablus and took him away. Troops also seized Shaer’s computer, she said. Israel also detained Shaer for a month last year during a similar crackdown before a judge ordered his release.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that in the fight to neutralize Hamas, arrests were preferable to bloodshed.

“Arrests are better than shooting, ” he told Israeli Army Radio. “The arrest of these Hamas leaders sends a message to the military organizations that we demand that this firing (of rockets) stop.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the arrests were a blow to peace efforts, and a spokesman for Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, of Hamas, called for the immediate release of the detainees and called on the U.N. and European Union to impose sanctions on Israel.

“These aggressive practices show the extent of the Israeli escalation and arrogance in the Palestinian territories, and also show how dismissive the Israeli government is of all customs and international laws,” spokesman Ghazi Hamad said.

Abbas, a moderate from the Fatah party, has been meeting with Haniyeh in Gaza this week in an effort to reduce tensions with Israel.

Thursday’s raid was the second major crackdown on Hamas in the past year. Israel rounded up dozens of Hamas officials, including three Cabinet ministers, last June after Palestinian militants tunneled into Israel from Gaza and captured an Israeli soldier.

Some 40 Hamas lawmakers arrested last summer — nearly one-third of the Palestinian legislature — are still behind bars. Despite the crackdown, the soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, remains in captivity.

Last year’s swoop paralyzed the Palestinian parliament, but detained Cabinet ministers were quickly replaced.

Among those rounded up Thursday were former Cabinet minister Abdel Rahman Zeidan, legislators Hamed Bitawi and Daoud Abu Ser, the mayors of the towns of Nablus, Qalqiliya and Beita, and the head of the main Islamic charity in Nablus, Fayad al-Arba.

Until Thursday, Israel’s crackdown on Hamas had been largely focused on the group’s Gaza Strip stronghold. Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 40 Palestinians in Gaza over the past week, most of them militants.

In new violence, a Palestinian was killed Thursday by Israeli tank fire near the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, local hospital staff said and the health ministry said a woman injured in an air strike last week died of her wounds in the hospital.

The Israeli military said a tank fired shells into an area close to the border with Israel that is regularly used by militants to fire rockets.

Israeli aircraft on Wednesday demolished two money exchange shops in Gaza City used to channel funds to Hamas militants, the military said. The army said the shops served as a conduit for millions of dollars sent from Iran, Syria and Lebanon.

Three people were slightly wounded in one of the attacks, medical officials said, and four stores were damaged in another, Palestinian security officials said. Electricity was cut off in parts of the town.

The airstrikes came as Abbas and Haniyeh were making a new push to restore a truce with Israel.

It also was the first time the men have met since fighting between their Hamas and Fatah movements broke out two weeks ago, killing more than 50 people. The two sides reached a truce last weekend, but tensions remain high.

The Abbas-Haniyeh meeting ended with the two sides agreeing their factions would meet again.

“We are working to recommit to the truce,” Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh said.

A Haniyeh aide, Ahmed Yousef, said a renewed cease-fire with Israel would have to be comprehensive, and include the West Bank in addition to Gaza. The previous truce, brokered in November, applied only to the Gaza-Israel border, and Israel rejected repeated Palestinian demands that it also halt arrest raids in the West Bank.

“If it is going to be for Gaza only, then no one will be able to convince the Palestinian resistance factions to commit to that,” Yousef said.

Israel, however, sees no point in extending to the West Bank a truce its says has failed to prove itself in Gaza.

“Israel has always said that if a cease-fire is kept in Gaza we’re willing to extend it to the West Bank,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said. “The trouble is that a cease fire in Gaza has never been kept … It has been a sham. The idea of extending a failure is flawed one.” (link)

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Annie Zirin: The Hidden History of Zionism

Posted by uscsjp on May 19, 2007

International Socialist Review, July-August 2002

The web site of the Anti-Defamation League defines Zionism as:

[T]he Jewish national movement of rebirth and renewal in the land of Israel–the historical birthplace of the Jewish people. The yearning to return to Zion, the biblical term for both the Land of Israel and Jerusalem, has been the cornerstone of Jewish religious life since the Jewish exile from the land two thousand years ago…. Zionism, the national aspiration of the Jewish people to a homeland, is to the Jewish people what the liberation movements of Africa and Asia have been to their peoples…a vindication of the fundamental concepts of the equality of nations and of self-determination. To question the Jewish people’s right to national existence and freedom is…to deny to the Jewish people the right accorded to every other people on this globe.1

We need to ask: What kind of national liberation movement allies itself in every case and at every moment in its history with the powers of world imperialism? What national liberation struggle built its very existence on the colonization of another people, on the obliteration of that people’s history, their culture, and their land? The founding fathers of Zionism were much more honest about what they stood for. Over and over, one word appears in their writing: not national “liberation,” but “colonization.” Vladimir Jabotinsky, one of the founding fathers of the Zionist movement, wrote in 1923:

[It is the] iron law of every colonizing movement, a law which knows of no exceptions, a law which existed in all times and under all circumstances. If you wish to colonize a land in which people are already living, you must provide a garrison on your behalf. Or else–or else, give up your colonization, for without an armed force which will render physically impossible any attempts to destroy or prevent this colonization, colonization is impossible, not “difficult,” not “dangerous” but impossible!… Zionism is a colonizing adventure and therefore it stands or falls by the question of armed force. It is important to build, it is important to speak Hebrew, but, unfortunately, it is even more important to be able to shoot–or else I am through with playing at colonization.2

Even among today’s peace activists who call for an end to Israel’s 35-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, there is still a general assumption that Zionism itself is a legitimate movement and that the State of Israel must be defended. The organization Americans for Peace Now issued this statement in December 2001:

[C]ontinued Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip will, within one generation, mean the end to Israel as a democratic state with a Jewish majority.…

This scenario would be a nightmare for Israel and all of us who support the Jewish state. It is not the Zionist vision for Israel’s future for which APN, or the majority of Jews and Israelis, have fought for generations.3

These activists are right to oppose the occupation. But they fail to recognize that the current occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is a continuation of the process of occupation and colonization of Palestine that began with the first Zionist settlers in the 19th century. The entire state of Israel occupies stolen land that is backed up with armed force. Sharon’s military invasions, the massacres of Palestinians in Jenin, the widespread call for the “transfer” (i.e. ethnic cleansing) of Palestinians in Israel today, are not aberrations from the Zionist project but are absolutely consistent with “the Zionist vision for Israel’s future for which…the majority of Jews and Israelis have fought for generations.” (continued)

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Asia Times Online: Document details ‘US’ plan to sink Hamas

Posted by uscsjp on May 18, 2007

On April 30, the Jordanian weekly newspaper Al-Majd published a story about a 16-page secret document, an “Action Plan for the Palestinian Presidency” that called for undermining and replacing the Palestinian national-unity government.

The document outlined steps that would strengthen Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, build up Palestinian security forces under his command, lead to the dissolution of the Palestinian Parliament, and strengthen US allies in Fatah in a lead-up to parliamentary elections that Abbas would call for early this autumn.

The Majd document is based on a Jordanian government translation of a reputed US intelligence document that was obtained by the newspaper from a Jordanian government official. The document, an official at the newspaper said, was drawn up by “Arab and American parties” and “presented to Palestinian President Abbas by the head of an Arab intelligence agency”. The document is explosive. (continued)

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A political marriage of necessity: a single state of Palestine-Israel

Posted by uscsjp on May 14, 2007

The Case of South Africa shows that a unity government can succeed.

Chicago

As Israel celebrates 59 years of independence, Palestinians on May 14 commemorate the Nakba, the catastrophe of expulsion and decades of exile that continue to this day.

When my mother was 9 years old, she and her family mounted the back of a pickup truck and left their village of Lifta, adjacent to Jerusalem, under threat from Zionist militias. My grandmother covered the furniture in the family home that my grandfather had built. Anticipating a short absence until fighting in the area died down, they took only a few clothes. That was almost six decades ago. Like hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians, they were never allowed to return, and their property was seized by Israel.

My mother remembers her early childhood and the Jewish neighbors who rented the apartment her father owned. She recalls helping them on the Sabbath and playing with their daughter after school. A life such as this is no more than a distant memory for most Palestinian refugees, who, with their descendants, now number more than 5 million.

But a better life needn’t be just a memory. It is feasible for Palestinians to return to their homeland while peace with Israelis is built at the same time. Another diplomatic push will not bring about the fantasy of neat separation of Israelis and Palestinians into two states. This would only perpetuate inequality and division. Instead, international pressure should be put on Israel to drop its insistence on supremacy over Palestinians. Then both parties can come together to begin building a single, multiethnic state where Jews and Palestinians can again live side by side.

One of the hard – but not impossible – tasks will be convincing many Israelis of the viability of a single-state solution. In 2004, for example, Israeli historian Benny Morris, who has written several books documenting the forced expulsion of the Palestinians, said that a “Jewish state would not have come into existence without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them.” But Mr. Morris is no bleeding heart. He added, “There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing.” If Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, could be faulted, Morris said, it was because he “did not complete the transfer in 1948.”

Millions of Palestinians live in squalid camps under Israeli military rule and in surrounding countries. Israel has refused to allow these refugees to return home as required by international law.

The reason is simple: From its inception, the Zionist movement set out to turn a country where the vast majority of people were not Jewish into a country that gives special rights and privileges to Jews at the expense of non-Jews. If Palestinian refugees were black Africans, no one would dispute an “apartheid” label that former US president Jimmy Carter has used to describe the situation.

But while some see Israel as a miracle, many Israelis themselves recognize that the Zionist project has been far from a success: Today the number of Israeli Jews and Palestinians inhabiting the country is roughly equal at about 5 million each. Just more than 1 million Palestinians live as citizens of Israel, albeit with inferior rights, while almost 4 million live under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. Their high birthrate means that in a few years, Palestinians will once again become the majority as they were prior to 1948.

To assert, as Israel does, that it has a right to be a “Jewish state” means to recognize that it has a right to manipulate demographics for the purpose of ethnic domination. This outlook violates fundamental human rights.

Palestinians, many of whom are already being forcibly displaced by the cruel wall that snakes through the West Bank, fear another 1948-like expulsion. At the last Israeli election, parties that explicitly endorse ethnic cleansing of Palestinians made major gains, including the one led by Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Palestine/Israel is as unpartitionable as was South Africa and Northern Ireland, where similar ethnic conflicts had also defied resolution for generations. In both places, it was only when the dominant group dropped its insistence on supremacy that a political settlement could be reached. What was once unimaginable happened: Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress and F.W. de Klerk’s National Party joined hands in a national unity government in 1994. Leaders in Northern Ireland made similar progress this year.

Neither political marriage came about through love, but through necessity and with outside pressure. In time, social reconciliation may come, but it has not been the prerequisite for political progress in South Africa or Northern Ireland. Such pressure on Israel as the strongest party is necessary, which is why I support the growing movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions modeled on the antiapartheid campaign. At the same time, we must begin to construct a vision of a nonracial, nonsectarian Palestine-Israel, which belongs to all the people who live in it, Israeli Jews, Palestinians, and all exiles who want to return and live in peace with their neighbors. (link)

Ali Abunimah is cofounder of the online publication The Electronic Intifada and author of “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.”

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