Tomorrow, a group of preeminent Israelis will endorse Palestinian statehood along the 1967 borders, and call on compatriots to join them. Will a Palestinian “state” be a game changer? And, if so, will it mark a change for the better?
A couple of weeks ago, Ami asked why the Israeli left isn’t debating the prospect of Palestinian statehood being proclaimed and internationally recognized this year. It did not take long for an answer to emerge.
Tomorrow, 17 recipients of the Israeli state’s highest honor – the “Israel Prize” – will hold an event in front of the hall where Israeli independence was proclaimed in 1948. During this event, they will sign a document supporting recognition of a Palestinian state along the border that existed between Israel and the Palestinian territories before the 1967 occupation. They will also call on the public to join them in signing the document.
One of sociology’s founding fathers, Max Weber, defined a state as a body which holds a monopoly on the use of armed force in a certain territory. This is still the most commonly used definition of a state in social and political theory. And by that measure, there will be no Palestinian state in 2011, even if such a fiction is proclaimed by the Palestinians and recognized by the international community.
In his post, Ami recognized this but still argued that “there is no doubt that the vote [in the UN, on Palestinian statehood] will have immense ramifications.” Well, I actually have serious doubts. Is it really so hard to imagine a world in which Palestinians declare their independence, the vast majority of the world recognizes them, including even the US administration (Congress will never accept that, of course), yet nothing really changes?
After all, no one doubts Syrian statehood, yet Israel has been sitting on a slice of their territory since 1967. The same happened with the Egyptian Sinai in 1956-1957 and again in 1967-1979, and for a substantial portion of south Lebanon between 1978 and 2000. And when Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist group, attacked Israel after its withdrawal, it had no qualms about retaliating, culminating in the bloody Lebanon war in 2006 in which a small portion of Lebanon’s territory was briefly reoccupied.
Certainly, the Palestinian issue is different, but in every aspect, this makes a declaration of statehood seem even less of a game changer. Ami believes such a move will have a deep impact on both sides’ psyche. Such developments are, of course, very hard to predict. I would not presume to analyze Palestinians’ attitudes, but as a rule, I think people feel stronger and more equal when they have the power to promote their status, not because some foreign nations and Israelis say they are a state.
I know a lot more about Israel, so I am much more confident in saying that Israelis would not feel more respect to Palestinians or realize they are trespassing on another nation’s land, just because the UN, even Obama, grants them statehood. In my opinion, the roots of Israeli attitudes towards the Palestinian issue run far too deep for such a purely symbolic external development to make much of an impact.
So why is the Israeli government so worried about the possibility that the world will recognize a Palestinian state? Well, just because you are paranoid does not mean that someone really is out to get you. The international and local “peace process” industry – what I like to call “Big Peace” – has a vested interest in stoking such fears, as a means to pressure the Israeli government to come out with yet another peace initiative. This will benefit every major player: the Israeli government can look more moderate and relieve pesky outside pressure, the international community can proclaim a diplomatic success, and the Palestinian authority gets another lease on life.
Yet, if there is a true game changer, it is not Palestinian “statehood” or yet another round of “peace” talks. I believe that only a move in the opposite direction can really shake things up. At some point in the future, Palestinian leaders – or, more likely, their public – might tire of the charade that has been going on here for the last two decades, and decide to dismantle the Palestinian Authority (PA) and hand direct control back to Israel.
This will immediately place a significant economic burden on Israel’ shoulders, because right now most Palestinian needs are catered for by international donors through the PA. Security will be harder to maintain without the cooperation of the PA’s massive security apparatus, and with Israeli officials having to venture into the Palestinian urban areas to take care of their governance. Diplomatic pressures might also rise, without the pretense of the peace process giving cover to indifferent foreign leaders.
Most importantly, the Israeli public will be horrified by the loss of the illusion that Israelis and Palestinian occupy a different political space. Suddenly, the idea that the one state, which has existed for the past 44 years, is a temporary situation, being gradually phased out, will no longer be tenable. It is possible that even this development will not be enough to shake Israelis’ complacency. But Palestinian “statehood” is even less likely to do so. Indeed, it might actually reinforce popular delusions, pushing an equitable and just solution even further away.
By Ian Fletcher | April 21, 2011
Trade is heating up again as a political issue. But if we’re to have a fighting chance this time of ending America’s free-trade disaster, we need to learn from our past mistakes on the issue.
Case in point: Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential run.
Offshoring first flared as a political controversy in that year. The thing about it that differed from previous trade-induced job losses was, of course, that it threatened the white-collar middle class.
But in the end, the controversy didn’t really go anywhere, in the sense of producing serious political realignments or policy changes. Offshoring was adjudged by the two parties to be a political flashpoint but fundamentally just another political issue, which changed nothing important and should be handled the way most political issues usually are: by jockeying for advantage within the established policy consensus.
Politicians thus set out to win votes on the issue without taking the risks inherent in doing anything substantial.
The Democrats, quintessentially Sen. John Kerry in his 2004 campaign, sought to make the smallest policy proposals sufficient to position themselves as “the good guys” on the issue for voters who cared about it, while signaling to everyone else that they weren’t about to go too far.
The Republicans, meanwhile, defended a status quo that they were no more or less responsible for than the Democrats using the same old Ricardian comparative-advantage (explanation) arguments that have always been used on free trade
Both responses were standard procedure for day-to-day Washington politics—which is precisely why they occurred.
Kerry, handicapped by his vote for NAFTA in 1993, did tack left a bit in the 2004 primaries. Facing vocal NAFTA opponents in the sincere Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-MO) and the opportunistic Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), he began railing against what he called “Benedict Arnold” corporations which were moving jobs overseas.
This rhetoric effectively blunted Edwards’ and Gephardt’s attacks on his NAFTA vote, enabling his wins in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other industrial states especially hurt by free trade.
Then, in May, with his nomination secure, Kerry tacked right again. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he claimed his Benedict Arnold reference had been misconstrued:
‘Benedict Arnold’ does not refer to somebody who in the normal course of business is going to go overseas and take jobs overseas. That happens. I support that. I understand that. I was referring to the people who take advantage of non-economic transactions purely for tax purposes—sham transactions—and give up American citizenship.
Offshore tax domiciling is, of course, an entirely different issue than offshoring. Kerry had folded his cards.
From that point on, the issue virtually disappeared from the campaign.
Kerry’s refusal to engage George W. Bush on trade reached its nadir during the third presidential debate, when moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS asked Bush what he would say to “someone in this country who has lost his job to someone overseas who’s being paid a fraction of what that job paid here in the United States.
Bush offered the stock Republican responses: he talked about creating the new jobs of the 21st century, improving primary and secondary education, expanding Trade Adjustment Assistance, increasing Pell Grants to college students, and helping displaced workers attend community college.
None of these palliative solutions are, of course, remotely sufficient. Educating people fill jobs that have been moved offshore is pointless, and Trade Adjustment Assistance is just a band-aid program to lessen the pain for the victims of free trade a bit.
Bush’s position gave Kerry a clear opportunity to define himself politically with his response at a critical juncture in the campaign. The strategic window was wide open.
But instead of taking on Bush over trade, Kerry accepted Bush’s basic premise that free trade is best and that his proposed solutions could work, and attacked him for cutting job training funds, Pell Grants and Perkins loans.
Amazingly, Schieffer gave Kerry another chance to exploit the issue minutes later. Kerry squandered it again, with a self-consciously defeatist answer dressed up as political courage:
Outsourcing is going to happen. I’ve acknowledged that in union halls across the country. I’ve had shop stewards stand up and say, ‘Will you promise me you’re going to stop all this outsourcing?’ And I’ve looked them in the eye and I’ve said, ‘No, I can’t do that.’
In other words, trade isn’t really a political issue at all, because there’s nothing the government can do about it. Not only is there no meaningful difference between Republicans and Democrats on the issue, there cannot be one.
Kerry went on to talk about tangential issues—corporate tax loopholes, violations of international trade rules, subsidies by Airbus, Chinese currency manipulation, and fiscal discipline. Bush had won by forfeit.
In retrospect, it is entirely plausible that Kerry’s decision to bunt on trade cost him Ohio and thus the entire 2004 election. By refusing to separate himself from Bush on economics on the single best issue for doing so—where Bush was furthest away from the opinions of swing voters—Kerry allowed social issues summed up as “God, guns and gays” to determine the election for the lower-middle and working-class voters who were his natural constituency.
This problem continues to fester: a 2008 study of the electorate in Ohio by the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University suggests that thanks to Bill Clinton’s support for NAFTA in 1993, working-class voters “still do not trust Democrats and they haven’t come back to the Democrats.” As a result, these voters have tended to view Republicans and Democrats as equally unlikely to protect their economic interests and have therefore voted on noneconomic issues.
In the face of economic crisis, this is a recipe for disaster.
Ian Fletcher is Senior Economist of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, a nationwide grass-roots organization dedicated to fixing America’s trade policies and comprising representatives from business, agriculture, and labor.
When the news first broke that Vittorio Arrigoni, the Italian who had been volunteering in Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement, had been kidnapped and murdered, the response in the U.S. and international media was similar to this comment by Charles Glass in The National: “After what happened to this brave young man, how many others will volunteer to take his place – when it may mean death to those who love them?”
The New York Times commented: “(The murder) raised embarrassing questions for Hamas about the security it says it has restored…. It also raises the specter of a growing boldness on the part of more extreme, virulently anti-Western Islamic groups in Gaza, which would pose a challenge not only to Hamas but to foreign activists promoting the Palestinian cause.”
No wonder that both my sister and my daughter, who had come to support my increasingly frequent trips to Gaza, now are discouraging me from continuing my work there. “I have to admit that now, with things becoming more dangerous in Gaza every day (from all sides–for example, Vik being killed by the very people he was trying to help), I completely understand why your daughters would be hoping that you don’t go back,” wrote my sister. Another friend, who had visited Gaza with me on one of my first trips, put it even more bluntly: “I would never have thought that the people he was supporting and helping would turn on him.”
I am sure this reaction is exactly what Vik’s killers – whoever they are–had been hoping for.
Whether the murder was committed by collaborators with Israel or religious extremists who abhor Western influence and/or want to make Hamas look bad, the motive seemed to be – at least in part — to scare off other internationals who might think to come to Gaza, whether via the next flotilla (planned for late May) or other route. Although no one knows — and we may never know – the true motivation of Vik’s killers, Israel has certainly worked overtime in the last few months to stop the next flotilla from reaching the shores of Gaza. The newspaper Ha’aretz reported last month that Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi has threatened that if the boats try to reach Gaza, “forcing” the military to attack, “there may be no alternative to deploying snipers to minimize troop casualties.” Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reported that the IDF will deploy attack dogs from its Oketz canine units. Likewise, Israel has not been shy about assassinating individuals it doesn’t like (the most recent example is the murder of Hamas official Mahmoud Mabhouh in Dubai).
However, whoever committed this gut-wrenching crime, and whatever their motivation, they are not Gaza (and the murderers of Juliano Mer-Khamis– the popular director of the Jenin Freedom Theater — are not the West Bank – or Palestine). After all, should Americans be judged by Timothy McVeigh, or the Unabomber? When word began spreading like wildfire that Vik had been murdered, my friends from Gaza – and many whom I barely knew, but were just connections on Facebook – messaged me to apologize on behalf of their entire people. One email I received was titled “WE ARE SO SORRY.”
Even those who didn’t know Vik felt the need to express their deep sorrow and shame; in fact, they were the majority of the individuals who reached out to me. Sameeha Elwan, a young blogger in Gaza, wrote: “All of us were agonized by the news of his abduction, spending the whole night anticipating and hoping that morning would bring us the news of his release…(But) morning brought us mourning. The first unconfirmed news of his death came at 2 a.m., leaving us all speechless and confused…’Did you know him personally?’many asked me today in the funeral that was held by Gazans in honor of Vittorio. In fact, I did not meet him in person, as was the case of so many Palestinians who were there…(But) to know how brave Vittorio was, I only had to look around, and see the agony and anger in the faces of hundreds of people…”
Vik’s death was considered a national tragedy in Gaza – indeed, throughout Palestine. I can’t help but compare this to how Americans would react if a foreigner in their midst –albeit one who was there in solidarity with them – was randomly slain. I doubt it would elicit the same outpouring of grief, or that Americans who didn’t even know him would feel a personal responsibility for the perpetrators. Even when my purse was apparently stolen one night by a coffeehouse, everyone I knew felt compelled to apologize – going out of their way to track it down.
This is the reason that in the eight months I lived in Gaza – five months in 2010 and three this year, coming home barely two weeks before Vik’s death – I felt safe and literally “embraced.” Crime can happen anywhere; yes, Gaza is a “hot spot,” and may be more dangerous than most, but not because of the Palestinians. I am not unlike the other international volunteers who are drawn to Gaza, or to Palestine in general. We know the spirit of the people there; we see inside their collective heart. And we agree with Sameeha when she writes, “No matter who was behind this vicious crime against humanity, he is not the least Palestinian.”
So to my friends and family who ask why I want to continue to return to the region, when “the people I help may turn on me,” I say no, they will never turn on me. And if I am ever in danger, they will have my back. They may not always be able to protect me from the criminal elements that are present everywhere, but I know they would lay down their lives for mine.
And to Vik’s killers, I say you will never win. Because we will keep coming back.
Pam Bailey is an American who has been on several of the Codepink delegations to Gaza. She then lived in Gaza for five months last year and three months this year.
Hats off to The New York Times for being one of the first, if not the first, to report last Friday that Col. Gaddafi’s forces in Libya have been firing cluster bombs into residential neighborhoods of Misurata, the sole city in western Libya still in rebel hands, thereby escalating the possibility of major civilian carnage.
Deployment of the weapon, along with ground-to-ground rockets, represents a significant intensification in the two-month old crisis in Libya sparked by the so-called Arab Spring of democratic rebellions that have surged through the Middle East.
The Libyan uprising, however, is the only one of these insurrections that has seen direct Western military involvement and it was the apparent threat to civilian life of the sort reported this weekend by the NYTimes and other media outlets that brought that about. Following an allegedly bloodcurdling threat from Gaddafi in early March to exact revenge against the citizens of Benghazi, the eastern city that has been the epicenter of the revolt, the United Nations Security Council authorised the use of force to protect civilians.
Justifying US involvement in the NATO-led bombing campaign against Gaddafi’s forces that followed, President Barack Obama said: “If we waited one more day, Benghazi . . . could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.’’
Gaddafi’s use of cluster bombs clearly increases the danger to Libya’s civilian population. The munitions, which contain many smaller, shrapnel-packed bomblets are designed to shower wide areas with deadly explosives. On the battlefield they can cut down scores of soldiers at a time but in heavily populated urban neighborhoods the weapon can kill and maim on a massive scale. As The NYTimes put it, describing the deployment of the weapon along with rockets:
Both of these so-called indiscriminate weapons, which strike areas with a dense succession of high-explosive munitions, by their nature cannot be fired precisely. When fired into populated areas, they place civilians at grave risk.
The dangers were evident beside one of the impact craters on Friday (in Misurata), where eight people had been killed while standing in a bread-line. Where a crowd had assembled for food, bits of human flesh had been blasted against a cinder-block wall.
The NYTimes’ report came just as other media outlets, such as The Boston Globe, were beginning to offer a platform to more skeptical analyses of the rationale for war in Libya. These pointed out that not only did Gaddafi not threaten a civilian massacre in Benghazi – this claim was made instead by rebels – he had offered an amnesty to those who threw their weapons away and even offered rebels an escape route to Egypt. The use of cluster bombs, however, tilts the balance the other way, strengthening the view that Gaddafi is prepared to kill his own people in order to survive. [...]
So how did The New York Times cover the deployment of white phosphorous by the IDF in Gaza? Again by way of contrast, the best way to start answering that question is perhaps to look at how one its European rivals covered the same story. The paper in question is The Times of London. [...]
The Times can sometimes rise majestically to the occasion. Its coverage of Israel’s deployment of white phosphorous was one such instance. The paper’s first story appeared on January 5th  under the headline ‘Israel rains fire on Gaza with phosphorous shells’ and two days later, on January 8th, followed that up with a story about the horrifying injuries caused by WP, while noting that the IDF’s official denials that the weapon was in use and identifying the shells as being of US origin: “There is also evidence that the rounds have injured Palestinian civilians, causing severe burns. The use of white phosphorous against civilians is prohibited under international law”. Another story on January 12th provided more detailed evidence of widespread civilian casualties caused by the weapon.
On January 15th, The Times reported that the UNWRA complex in Gaza had been hit by white phosphorous shells and that the UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-Moon had protested to the Israeli government (a counter claim by Israeli PM, Ehud Olmert that his forces had been forced to reply to Hamas attacks was not supported by Goldstone). It continued in terms that left little doubt the paper believed the Israelis to be liars: “The Israeli military has denied using white phosphorous shells in the Gaza offensive, although an investigation by The Times has revealed that dozens of Palestinians in Gaza have sustained serious injuries from the substance, which burns at extremely high temperatures.”
So how did The New York Times compare to its British equivalent? I did a search of the paper’s website and archive and trawled Lexis-Nexis for references in the paper to white phosphorous during Operation Cast Lead. In total there were just five reports and with the exception of the last article, filed after the Israelis had withdrawn from Gaza, the NYT’s references to WP were perfunctory, repeated IDF and Israeli government explanations for its use and made little if any mention of the death and injury caused to Gazan civilians.
The first was a story on January 11th by Ethan Bronner, the Jerusalem bureau chief for the NYT since March 2008. Although the subject had been well reported by The Times of London and other European newspapers up to a week beforehand, Bronner devoted just one sentence to WP in a report that led with Israel’s warnings to Gaza residents about a planned escalation of its incursion. Although Bronner also reported signs of growing international criticism of Israeli tactics and the dangers posed to Gazan civilians, the reference to WP was a meager one that carried echoes of the IDF’s line on its use. He wrote: “Human rights groups are also concerned about the Israeli use of white phosphorous, which creates smoke on a battlefield, at low altitudes or crowded areas, because it can burn like a kind of napalm.”
The second report came on January 16th, five days later and dealt with the shelling of the UNWRA complex. The article dwelt on Israeli doubts about the UN’s neutrality and complaints about its “institutional bias”, carried the IDF claim that its shelling was in response to Hamas fire and devoted just two paragraphs in a 1600 word article to the use of White Phosphorus.
Bylined Isabel Kershner, the story had this to say about the weapon:
Citing agency representatives who were present during the attack, Mr Gunness (a UNWRA spokesman) said three white phosphorous shells had hit the compound, causing fires that raged for hours, an allegation to which the Israeli military did not respond.
White phosphorous is a standard, legal weapon in armies, long used as a way to light up an area or to create a thick white smoke to obscure troop movements. While using it against civilians, or in an area where many civilians are likely to be affected, can be a violation of international law, Israel has denied using the substance improperly. On Wednesday, Hamas fired a phosphorous mortar shell into Israel, but no-one was hurt.
On January 22nd, the day after Israel withdrew from Gaza, The New York Times carried two pieces on WP, one by Ethan Bronner and Alan Cowell which reported that Israel had established a military investigation “to look into the issue” of alleged misuse of WP following allegations reported in what an IDF spokesman called “the foreign press”. It was the first admission by the paper that Israel’s use of white phosphorous had angered and incensed international opinion.
A second piece, solely by Ethan Bronner, finally put a human face to the consequences of white phosphorous use and reported on the ordeal of the Abu Halima family. Five members of the family, four children and their father, had perished in a WP attack over two weeks earlier and the incident had been widely reported, both in The Times of London and other European outlets, but it was only now that The New York Times was giving the story any coverage.
Bronner quoted Sabah Abu Halima, the surviving widow, at length and also doctors who had treated survivors and had seen the horrific injuries up close. One doctor said that in a few cases the damage done by WP was so acute that “seemingly limited burns led to the patients’ deaths.” Sabah Abu Halima’s grief was so profound, she said she wanted to see Israel’s foreign minister and president “burn like my children burned”.
It was a good piece of reporting that well reflected the horrors visited upon Palestinian civilians by Israeli white phosphorous. But it came far too late, like the horse that bolted the stable. It also smacked of catch up by the Gray Lady, as if someone in the New York HQ had realized that the paper really ought to say something about the matter given the level of international concern over Israel’s behavior in Gaza. But by this stage the horse had galloped several fields away.
It could be said in the paper’s defense that The New York Times was hampered, as was all the media, by Israeli government restrictions on media access to the Gaza war zone. Reporters like Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner couldn’t actually report from the ground, could not see the evidence or lack thereof for themselves and couldn’t get to speak to victims like Sabah Abu Halima, much less look into her eyes as she voiced her allegations. All their reports, bar the second Bronner piece on January 22nd, carried the Jerusalem dateline. Only when the IDF had evacuated could Ethan Bronner get into Gaza to speak to Palestinians.
That all sounds reasonable except for one thing. Like the NYT, The Times of London’s reports were all datelined Jersualem and for its detailed coverage of events on the ground in Gaza the paper seemingly relied on local stringers. And it managed to report in considerable detail both the use of WP and the devastating injuries being caused. So what about The New York Times? Did the paper have someone on the ground in Gaza and if so, why didn’t its coverage match its English counterpart?
Well yes, the paper did have someone on the ground in Gaza. Her name was Taghreed El-Khodary, a Palestinian journalist and she was the paper’s local correspondent, able to go places and speak to people inaccessible to Bronner and Kershner. On January 19th, 2009, she featured in a lengthy readers’ Q&A session reported in the Lede blog on the NYT website where she was asked about evidence that she had seen about the use of WP. She replied, inter alia: “I could find evidence of the use of white phosphorus bombs……As a result, we wrote about the use of the phosphorus. Israel used white phosphorus in densely populated areas.”
Ms El-Khodary may well have written about white phosphorous but if so, her reports about its use, the evidence she had found and her assertion that the weapon was used in “densely populated areas” never appeared in her paper, at least no edition available in any archive that I could search.
In all of this, it may entirely be a coincidence that the NYT’s Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner has what many would see as a major conflict of interest. He is married to an Israeli citizen and his son is a soldier in the Israeli army. Philip Weiss in his Mondoweiss blog reported on The New York Times response when Bronner’s background became known: “When it broke the news last year, Electronic Intifada said that it was a conflict of interest; and the newspaper’s public editor concurred; he said that Bronner should be reassigned to some other beat. The Times’ executive editor, Bill Keller, has kept Bronner in Jerusalem, presumably hoping that the issue dies down and no one says anything about it.” (Taghreed El-Khodary resigned when the NYT refused to reassign Bronner and spoke of her “disappointment” at the paper’s decision). The NYT’s other Jerusalem-based correspondent Isabel Kershner is an Israeli citizen.
Perhaps it is unfair to suggest that such considerations would or could affect how a journalist covers a particular story or how a newspaper should regard his or her stories. But put it this way. If CJ Chivers was a Libyan citizen, or was married to one, and had a son who was fighting for the rebels in Benghazi and all this was known to the world, would The New York Times have been just as quick to publish his story about Gaddafi’s use of cluster bombs, just as confident that it could weather the inevitable controversy?
They say they are . . .
Are the elections results of US presidential elections determined by 2 percent of the population? Can the five million or so Jewish population be counted as the US majority? Does the Israel lobby shape the majority of US voters’ decisions? Is Israel the main determinant of political elections’ results when it comes to high US public offices?
I don’t know your take or answers to these questions, but we do have ‘theirs, on the record, loud and clear, and of course, delivered with hubris and cockiness:
Metzger to Obama: Release Pollard or lose reelection
By Jonah Mandel, Jerusalem Post
Chief Ashkenazi rabbi says he’s not making prophecy, just reflecting the feelings of US Jews who supported US president’s election.
“If Obama wants another term as president, he must immediately release Pollard,” the rabbi said on Saturday. …
I don’t believe the above article is in need of any interpretation or explanation. It is pretty straightforward: Mr. President if you do A, we won’t let you get reelected, but if you do B, we will; yes, we have that much power and influence. The condition put on this one way negotiation has nothing to do with the topic I am discussing here. Period. In this case it is about Jonathan Pollard, the convicted Israeli spy who betrayed his nation and endangered lives. It could very well be about Iran: Mr. Obama you either attack or advocate for an attack on country X, and we’ll ensure you get reelected, or, stand against it, and lose your chance of getting reelected. Why? Because ‘we’ have that power. Because ‘we’ perceive country X as a threat to ‘us,,’ and ‘we’ want you to put your nation at war for ‘us.’
Now you may say, ‘hey, that’s a ludicrous empty threat! Give or take two percent of the voting population can’t carry that level of influence over a United States President!’ And, you will be wrong; flat out wrong. It is true that the population of American adherents of Judaism was around 5 million, 1.7 percent of the total US population in 2007, and including those who identify themselves culturally as Jewish (but not necessarily religiously), around 6.5 million, 2.2 percent as of 2008. But who ever claimed that these things are all about size, and that only size matters?!!! If you don’t have the size you go about compensating for it; don’t you? Well, that’s exactly what ‘they’ have been doing, and doing successfully. How? In more than one way:
Shape the voters’ votes
So you want power and influence but there are too few of you, and you want your ‘men and women’ to get elected to high and mighty offices. You can’t multiply your 3 or 4 million votes by 30 or so. That option is out. But if you are shrewd and clever enough, if you are dedicated enough, and if you are rich and willing to pay for it enough, you can get the number of votes you need for your candidate. All you have to do is: shape the voters’ votes. And how do you shape the voters’ votes? One major way is to get ownership and or control and or management and or influence of the media. And ‘they’ have done exactly that, and have been doing ‘that’:
Declassified files from a Senate investigation into Israeli-funded covert public relations and lobbying activity in the United States were released by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) on July 23rd, 2010. The subpoenaed documents reveal Israel’s clandestine programs for “cultivation of editors,” the “stimulation and placement of suitable articles in the major consumer magazines” as well as U.S. reporting about sensitive subjects such as the Dimona nuclear weapons facility. . . .
Click here if you want to read the report detailing how ‘they’ successfully control, direct and shape American media.
So, what else can you do?
Pay what it takes—every candidate has a price
Do I even need to expand upon this particular means of getting one’s candidate of choice? Come on people, I don’t have to tell you how far big dollars will get you when put inside political candidates’ pockets , enabling them to successfully and fruitfully campaign. And that’s another means ‘they’ have been successfully pursuing. In 2006 The Washington Post had a fairly sanitized report on the Israel Lobby’s ‘known & direct’ donations between1990–2006:
Pro-Israel interests have contributed $56.8 million in individual, group and soft money donations to federal candidates and party committees since 1990, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. (By contrast, the center says, pro-Arab and pro-Muslim groups donated $297,000 during the same period.) Between the 2000 and the 2004 elections, the 50 members of AIPAC’s board donated an average of $72,000 each to campaigns and political action committees. One in every five board members was a top fundraiser for President Bush or John Kerry.
And a more recent report had this finding:
Since 1990 the Israel lobby has contributed $78 million to congressional incumbents and $94 million when including non-incumbents. The pro-Israel lobby ranks 40 in total campaign giving as compared to more than 80 other industries, reports the Center for Responsive Politics. . . .
I want to emphasize: these dollar figures are only known and above board donations. There are many indirect and or under the table and illegal ways of getting big dollars into your candidates’ pockets. While working at the FBI I had the pleasure (Not!) of learning about a few of these scams. And the Israel lobby is a pretty well-known participant in ‘these’ practices in the United States.
I am not writing this piece to attack anyone. I am not attacking Israel or the Israel lobby. Not really. In fact, I am giving them credit due: They are clever and shrewd, they are rich and successful, and they are dedicated (not to the United States) enough to put shrewdness and cleverness and richness to work for ‘what’ they believe in, and ‘who/what’ they are loyal to. Good for them. Terrible for us whom I am directing this article to. This is about us, the American voters. You may say, ‘hey, I ain’t got the money, and I ain’t got the position or means necessary to influence the media. So I can neither buy politicians nor use the media marketing platform!’
And my response to you is: I am not asking you to. All I am doing here is letting you see what I see, and letting you know what is out there in front of us; that is, if you haven’t already seen and don’t already know. Then, I’ll let you decide for yourself: Do I sit back, buy the things the media is marketing and selling, and let ‘them’ shape my vote easily? Or do I treat the media’s marketing campaign as I do Nike’s super performance ads when it comes to deciding on the candidate who will be getting my vote? Do I become enamored of the candidates with the glitziest and fanciest campaigns, or, do I direct my attention to the ones’ whose pockets have been left empty by foreign and special interests?
After all, it is your vote, and I am not going to spend more words or time trying to shape it, so please don’t let ‘them’ either.
Last week Barack Obama announced that he wants to cut $400 billion in military spending and said he would work with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs on a “fundamental review” of U.S. “military missions, capabilities and our role in a changing world” before making a decision.
Spokesman Geoff Morrell responded by hinting that Gates was displeased with having to cut that much from his spending plan. Gates “has been clear that further significant defense cuts cannot be accomplished without future cuts in force structure and military capability,” said Morrell, who volunteered that the Secretary not been informed about the Obama decision until the day before.
But it is difficult to believe that open display of tension between Obama and Gates was not scripted. In the background of those moves is a larger political maneuver on which the two of them have been collaborating since last year in which they gave the Pentagon a huge increase in funding for the next decade and then started to take credit for small or nonexistent reductions from that increase.
The original Obama-Gates base military spending plan – spending excluding the costs of the current wars – for FY 2011 through 2020, called for spending $5.8 trillion, or $580 billion annually, as former Pentagon official Lawrence Korb noted last January. That would have represented a 25 per cent real increase over the average annual level of military spending, excluding war costs, by the George W. Bush administration.
Even more dramatic, the Obama-Gates plan was 45 per cent higher than the annual average of military spending level in the 1992-2001 decade, as reflected in official DOD data.
The Obama FY 2012 budget submission reduced the total increase only slightly – by $162 billion over the four years from 2017 to 2020, according to the careful research of the Project on Defense Alternatives (PDA). That left an annual average base military spending level of $564 billion – 23 per cent higher than Bush’s annual average and 40 percent above the level of the 1990s.
Central to last week’s chapter in the larger game was Obama’s assertion that Gates had already saved $400 billion in his administration. “Over the last two years,” he said, “Secretary Gates has courageously taken on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future spending. I believe we can do that again.”
The $400 billion figure is based primarily on the $330 billion Gates claimed he had saved by stopping, reducing or otherwise changing plans for 31 weapons programs. But contrary to the impression left by Obama, that figure does not reflect any cut in projected DOD spending. All of it was used to increase spending on operations and investment in the military budget.
The figure was concocted, moreover, by using tricky accounting methods verging on chicanery. It was based on arbitrary assumptions about how much all 31 programs would have cost over their entire lifetimes stretching decades into the future, assuming they would all reach completion. That methodology offered endless possibilities for inflated claims of savings.
The PDA points out that yet another $100 billion that Gates announced in January as cost-cutting by the military services was also used to increase spending on operations and new weapons program that the services wanted. That leaves another $78 billion in cuts over five years also announced by Gates in January, but most of that may have been added to the military budget for “overseas contingency operations” rather than contributed to deficit reduction, according to the PDA.
Even if the $400 billion in ostensible cuts that Obama is seeking were genuine, the Pentagon would be still be sitting on total projected increase of 14 per cent above the level of military spending of the Bush administration. Last week’s White House fact sheet on deficit reduction acknowledged that Obama has the “goal of holding the growth in base security spending below inflation.”
The “fundamental review” that Obama says will be carried out with the Pentagon and military bureaucracies will be yet another chapter in this larger maneuver. It’s safe bet that, in the end, Gates will reach into his bag of accounting tricks again for most of the desired total.
Despite the inherently deceptive character of Obama’s call for the review, it has a positive side: it gives critics of the national security state an opportunity to point out that such a review should be carried out by a panel of independent military budget analysts who have no financial stake in the outcome – unlike the officials of the national security state.
Such an independent panel could come up with a list of all the military missions and capabilities that don’t make the American people more secure or even make them less secure, as well as those for which funding should be reduced substantially because of technological and other changes. It could also estimate how much overall projected military spending should be reduced, without regard to what would be acceptable to the Pentagon or a majority in Congress.
The panel would not require White House or Congressional approval. It could be convened by a private organization or, better yet, by a group of concerned Members of Congress. They could use its data and conclusions as the basis for creating a legislative alternative to existing U.S. national security policy, perhaps in the form of a joint resolution. That would give millions of Americans who now feel that nothing can be done about endless U.S. wars and the national security state’s grip on budgetary resources something to rally behind.
Three convergent political forces are contributing to the eventual weakening of the national security state: the growing popular opposition to failed wars, public support for shifting spending priorities from the national security sector to the domestic economy and pressure for deficit and debt reduction. But in the absence of concerted citizen action, it could take several years to see decisive results. Seizing the opportunity for an independent review of military missions and spending would certainly speed up that process.
Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam“, was published in 2006.
Benny Morris is a man who has completely lost his moral compass. One has to assume it was there at some point, but driven by the logic of his own research, and forced to make a choice, Morris opted for justification rather than rejection of the war crimes committed by Israel in 1948. He made his name as an historian with The Birth of the Palestine Refugee Problem 1947-1949 (1989). The central value of this book lay in what Morris found in the Zionist archives, corroborating what Palestinian survivors of the first phase of the Nakba and Palestinian historians had been saying for decades. Morris did not write anything they did not already know. In the western cultural mainstream, however, the book was regarded as ‘groundbreaking’, and in a way it was. The fact that a Jew had written the book was important. Western liberals previously too frightened to speak out for fear of being called anti-Semitic now had some of that burden lifted from their shoulders. The timing of the book’s publication was also important. At a point when the traditional Zionist narrative could no longer be maintained, Morris appeared at the right time to update it, admitting mistakes and even crimes, but always within a Zionist framework of understanding. A serious weakness was his failure, or refusal, to connect the past to the present. There is no examination of the centrality of ‘transfer’ in Zionist thinking from the very beginning, no indication that the 1948 war allowed the Zionists to do what they had been planning all along. The reader needed to know this to fully understand what happened and why. The expulsion of the Palestinians was not incidental, or an unintended consequence of war, but the long anticipated and deliberate, if partial, resolution of a problem which had to be solved if there was to be a ‘Jewish’ state.
Although Morris’ research leads him ineluctably towards obvious conclusions the book ends with judgment hanging in the air, as if he can’t make up his mind. On his own evidence, the Zionists committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in 1948, up to and including the crime of genocide, but not until he was interviewed by Ari Shavitz for Haaretz in 2004 did Morris openly pass judgment on what he had found out. There is no regret, or remorse, but only justification of war crimes. The Palestinians had to be ‘cleansed’, otherwise Israel could not have come into existence. Ben-Gurion was a ‘transferist’ who unfortunately got cold feet. Israel would have been much better off (‘quieter’) if he had finished what he started. (Morris was speaking at a time when suicide bombers were striking in Jerusalem). He does not rule out a third wave (after 1948 and 1967) of ‘transfer’, involving not just the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza but those over whose heads and on whose land the state of Israel was built in the first place, the Palestinians of Galilee and the Triangle. They are a fifth column and if Morris is not in favor of their ‘transfer’ it is only ‘not at the moment’. For Morris, there is a sickness afoot, not in an Israel built on the crimes he has just admitted, although, of course, he doesn’t call them crimes, but in Palestinian society. The Palestinians ‘should be treated the way we treat serial killers .. something like a cage has to be built for them … there is a wild animal there that has to be locked up one way or the other’. Jabotinsky’s iron wall was the answer. ‘What Jabotinsky proposed is what Ben-Gurion adopted. Ben-Gurion argued [with Moshe Sharett] that the Arabs understand only force and that ultimately force will persuade them to accept our presence here. He was right’. Well, the Zionists finally delivered Jabotinsky’s wall in the form of concrete and created their nature reserve for wild animals in the Gaza Strip, closed off by the sea and fences and open to hunting expeditions in all seasons by the Israeli army.
Morris distinguishes between the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Israeli army in 1948 and the genocide he says was being planned by the Arabs. Obviously the distinction between ethnic cleansing and genocide is a fine one but what the Israelis actually did in 1948, as opposed to what Morris says the Arabs were planning to do, was not just ‘ethnic cleansing’ (a phrase not then in use) but genocide, as defined in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of December 9, 1948. The convention describes as genocide five acts ‘committed with the intention to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group’. Three of these acts (Article II) are defined as the following: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or part. The match between what the Zionists did, and intended to do, and the terms of the Convention, leaves no room for doubt. The enemy was not just the armed fighters but the entire Palestinian people, men, women and children, along with everything representative of their presence, their homes, their villages, their towns, their fields, their olive groves and grapes, their mosques and their schools. In the interview with Haaretz, Morris establishes himself as a defiant, and arrogant, apologist for crimes that in other circumstances have landed their perpetrators and their apologists before war crimes tribunals. Serb ultra-nationalists used the same language in the 1990s to explain why they had to ‘cleanse’ their claimed homeland of Bosnians and Albanians, whom they also regarded as animals. In justifying ethnic cleansing and speaking of a Palestinian ‘fifth column’ inside Israel, Morris stands in the same rabid company as Avigdor Lieberman, settler rabbis and their racist, fanatical followers, and a sizable number of members of the Knesset whose vulgar, hateful diatribes against the Palestinians and Israeli traitors are an echo of his own.
Having justified the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, Morris followed up with an argument for the bombing of Iran. Writing in the New York Times of July 18, 2004, he predicted that Israel would attack Iran within the next four to seven months. He was wrong, of course, as were many others writing on the subject, but not only did Morris think Iran would be attacked, he thought it should be attacked, because, of course, once ‘the mullahs’ got their hands on a nuclear weapon they would use it, and then Israel would be forced to use its nuclear weapons. So better, according to Benny Morris, to disable Iran with conventional weapons now than with nuclear weapons later. There would be thousands of casualties, he admitted (tens of thousands, more probably) but, as he had said insouciantly of the expulsion of the Palestinians in the Haaretz interview, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.
Now Morris has come out with a vicious attack on an Israeli historian who, far from justifying the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, has condemned it. ‘The Liar as Hero’, a review of three of Ilan Pappé’s books, appears in the New Republic.(1) which, along with Commentary, is just the kind of publication where you would expect such invective to appear. Ilan Pappé is well capable of defending himself, of course. What characterizes this review, however, is not the mistakes he may or may not have made but the malignant nature of Morris’ attacks on his character. Pappé is never just wrong. He is out to ‘blacken the image of Israel and its leaders in 1948′; he is one of the world’s sloppiest historians and certainly one of the most dishonest; he is a liar; he falsifies history; he is brazen; he ‘omits and ignores significant evidence’; he deliberately slants history; he is profoundly ignorant of basic facts; indeed, his histories are ‘worthless’ as representations of the past’; his contempt for historical truth and fact ‘is almost boundless’; he is a ‘retroactive poseur’; his work is shoddy ‘and has grown shoddier with the years’; by supporting the international boycott of Israel his motive is to hurt the people with whom he works; finally, Morris makes a comparison between Pappé and William Joyce, who broadcast for the Nazis as ‘Lord Haw Haw’ and was hanged in 1945. In other words, Ilan Pappé is a traitor who would be deserving of the same fate.
None of this slander should surprise anyone. Morris has a vicious tongue. He engaged in coarse abuse of Arafat when the ‘peace process’ publicly collapsed. He is a man who is obviously psychologically incapable of drawing the only conclusions possible from his own research. For Morris, nothing the Zionists did explains Palestinian resistance ‘towards the Jewish existence here’. If ethnic cleansing, massacres and the destruction of close to 500 villages, just as a starting point, is not enough, one has to wonder what would be enough for Benny Morris. Like Bernard Lewis, he seeks alternative explanations in the history of Islam and the Arabs. Despite Israel’s land theft, its primitive pre-enlightenment ideology, its wars and its massacres, far eclipsing any ever committed in history by Arabs against Jews, it is the Arabs whose society Morris characterizes as ‘barbarian’ (his Haaretz interview). Some of this came out in the attack he and Ehud Barak launched on Yasser Arafat and Arab culture (inherently dishonest, of course) in the pages of the New York Review of Books. Yet all Morris has to do, as a starting point, is step out of his Jerusalem home and look around him. He must do this but obviously does not see what he does not want to see. He is living in an Arab city that has been taken over and is still being subjected every day to racist demographic warfare. He can drive to Hebron and see what is being done there. Maybe he does drive there, but he certainly does not want to talk about it. Of course, the Palestinians never resisted ‘the Jewish existence here’, as he remarked in the Haaretz interview, but only Zionism and the theft of Palestine from under their feet. Here Morris is manipulating language, using ‘Jewish’ for emotional impact. If anything really damaged the ‘Jewish existence’ right across the Middle East it was Zionism. It deliberately set out to subvert the position of Jewish communities living mostly at peace with Christians and Muslims over many centuries and it succeeded. They are now almost all gone, a tragedy second only to the dispossession of the Palestinians.
Ilan Pappé’s claim that Zionism is ‘a racist and quite evil philosophy of morality and life’ enrages Morris, despite the mountain of evidence that doctrinally, historically, structurally and incidentally, points in this direction. The statement is wrong only in the sense that Zionism is not a philosophy but an idea, and a bad one at that. Pappés language, says Morris, attempting to smear by association, ‘is fully as virulent as Hamas’s or worse’. He criticizes Teddy Katz, and Pappé, who graded the master’s thesis he presented to the University of Haifa in 1998, over claims in the thesis of a large-scale massacre being committed at Tantura in 1948. According to the oral testimony of Palestinian survivors and Jewish witnesses, including members of the Alexandroni Brigade who were involved, soldiers went on the rampage after the village was captured and massacred about 250 people. Some were taken to the beach and shot in cold blood. The Jewish witnesses included a man who supervised the burial of the victims and personally counted about 230 bodies.(2) Following the publication in Maariv of the gist of the thesis, Katz was sued for libel by members of the Alexandroni Brigade. During the trial, under pressure from friends and family, not to mention attacks by hostile academics, Katz, who had also recently suffered a heart attack, broke down and recanted. This might now be called the Goldstone effect. Twelve hours later he withdrew his recantation and insisted that the trial be continued, but the judge refused.
The evidence gathered by Katz is voluminous and thoroughly consistent with descriptions of other massacres carried out across Palestine. Morris, in his review of Ilan Pappé’s books, claims to have interviewed survivors also, but his basic point of reference is the official record. This is his gospel. He says there is no evidence of such a massacre in the archives but only ‘small-scale’ atrocities, along with the shooting of a ‘handful’ of Arab snipers (how small is small-scale and how many Arab snipers constitute a handful?). As all other massacres were recorded, although it is unlikely that all were, we are invited to believe that there cannot have been a massacre at Tantura.
Here, while the Israeli archives confirm much of what the Palestinians have been saying for decades, they cannot be regarded as conclusive. Archives never are. They might tell part of the story but never the whole story. They are the official record, after all, more likely to conceal than reveal. There were killings of large groups of people across Palestine. The Zionist archives record some of them, invariably justifying what was done, but the official reports cannot possibly be regarded as the definitive account. People involved in the cold-blooded slaughter of defenseless men, women and children are not likely to own up. In fact, the evidence for a large-scale massacre having taken place at Tantura remains overwhelming.
The review of Ilan Pappé’s three books has to be seen for what it is, not just a review that any historian would be asked to write but a calculated and very vicious attempt to destroy the author’s reputation. Along with Gilad Atzmon and numerous other Israelis, Pappé has broken with Israel for good reasons. Benny Morris has stuck with it for bad ones. This rancorous diatribe says far more about Benny Morris than it does Ilan Pappé. He can defend his own record as an historian and he is far better placed than Benny Morris to describe the pressures directed against him in Israel, so it will be interesting to see what he has to say in response to this hatchet job by a man who destroyed his own moral credibility a long time ago.
Jeremy Salt is associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Previously, he taught at Bosporus University in Istanbul and the University of Melbourne in the Departments of Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science. Professor Salt has written many articles on Middle East issues, particularly Palestine, and was a journalist for The Age newspaper when he lived in Melbourne.
Photo: Phoebe Greenwood/IRINMalak, eight, is in her last year at Al Nabi Samwil School, east Jerusalem.
JERUSALEM – The one-room school building in the Palestinian village of An Nabi Samwil, near Jerusalem, serves as a classroom for eight pupils, a staff room, storeroom and the principal’s office. During the winter months or on hot summer days, it is also the children’s playground.
“The biggest difficulty I face here is that I am not able to add anything more to our premises,” says school principal Khalil Abu Argu. “We have no facilities.”
The school serves 30 families in the picturesque village, which has panoramic views of Jerusalem and the West Bank. But a major problem for residents is that it is a struggle to reach either, as the village – along with 15 others – lies on the Jerusalem side of Israel’s “Separation Wall”.
The “Separation Wall”, or barrier, has been under construction since 2002. Israel claims it is essential to protect its citizens from Palestinian “terrorism”. In Jerusalem this wall, however, has not been built along the Jerusalem municipal boundary, meaning that these 16 Palestinian communities are cut off from their families and basic services.
An Nabi Samwil village also falls within Area C, where Israel retains military authority and full control over building and planning permission. Responsibility for the provision of services falls to the Palestinian Authority (PA), but because of the wall, the PA cannot access the area.
Most of the villagers hold West Bank IDs and so are not recognized by Israel as Jerusalem residents. This means they are forbidden from entering the city and anyone in the West Bank wishing to visit the village needs an Israeli permit to pass through the checkpoints surrounding it.
There is another challenge that Argu, who lives in the West Bank city of Ramallah, faces. He has been working at the school for four years. He now needs a permit allowing him to pass through the Al Jib checkpoint but is not allowed any further in the direction of Jerusalem than the end of An Nabi Sawil village boundary.
“That wall went up last year,” he says, pointing out the black electric fence winding through the valley below. “In the past, when the way was open, it was a 20-minute walk to school. Now it takes me an hour and I need a car.”
Planning restrictions in Area C mean that new structures and the expansion of existing buildings can only be carried out with Israel’s permission. No permission has been given to Argu’s school.
Instead, the Israeli Defense Forces have issued demolition orders on the school’s small outside toilet and a tent they had been using as an extra classroom because they were built without permits. Israeli soldiers have visited the school more than once, warning that the illegal structures must be taken down.
Argu remains defiant: “They’ll come and take it down and I’ll put something else up. I plan to bring a shipping container to the school next year and turn it into a classroom.”
At An Nabi Sawil, lack of space has forced the school to only teach grades 1-3. From grade four onwards, local children must travel to schools in the nearby villages of Al Jib and Beit Iksa, which the principal says are more than an hour’s drive away thanks to the wall.
Al Nabi Samwil School’s principle, Khalil Abu Argu, lives in Ramallah and passes a checkpoint to get to school each morning. Photo: Phoebe Greenwood/IRIN
One of Argu’s brightest students, Malak, aged eight, is looking forward to starting grade four at a bigger school in Al Jib this October.
“I like my school now but it’s very small; there isn’t enough space,” she said. “It would be better if we could have different classrooms for the different grades. It’s very difficult now, because we have to wait for the teacher to go through three different sets of lessons.”
Within the boundaries of East Jerusalem there is a different set of educational problems. Around 50 percent of the educational system is run by the Israeli municipality, the rest by a combination of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), private educators and Waqf, an Islamic religious endowment that essentially operates in lieu of the Palestinian Authority in Israeli-controlled East Jerusalem, which is not able to operate on the Jerusalem side of the “Separation Wall”.
A recent report published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned of the long-term impact of the restrictions on access to education in East Jerusalem.
Permit restrictions, checkpoints and the wall, it said, meant that pupils, and especially teachers with West Bank ID cards, face significant difficulties getting to schools in East Jerusalem, which is increasingly cut off from the rest of occupied Palestinian territory.
Ray Dolphin, the report’s author, told IRIN a key concern is the shortage of classrooms: “Even within Jerusalem [the Jerusalem Municipality] where students don’t need to cross checkpoints to get to school, there aren’t enough school buildings to meet their needs.
“And many of the buildings that are there weren’t designed as schools. Palestinian children living in Jerusalem have the right to an education but there currently aren’t the facilities.”
Despite the significant obstacles his school faces, Argu is full of enthusiasm: “I’m not at all frustrated with my job. My students work hard and that makes me proud and happy. What brings me most satisfaction is when I managed to develop the school somehow. It would be shameful for me to give up.”
Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron on
August 26, 2009. [MaanImages/Mamoun Wazwaz]
HEBRON — Israeli forces surrounded the Tareq Ben Ziyad Secondary School for boys in Hebron’s city center on Thursday morning, then entered the building deploying sound grenades, witnesses said.
School was in progress when the soldiers arrived at approximately 10 a.m., entering the school and classrooms.
No detentions were reported, and troops withdrew to an area outside of the school, which is in the Israeli-controlled zone of the city.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers had been targeted by rock throwers from the vicinity of the school, and “went into the school to check,” adding that no students were questioned or detained.
Observers from the Temporary International Presence in Hebron and parents of the schoolboys witnessed the incident, and entered the school after the soldiers, demanding that they leave.
A teacher at the school said his students were terrified when the soldiers entered the classroom, and added that soldiers had not made clear the reason they were in the building.
The Jewish Passover/Pesach holiday has imposed further restrictions on the residents of Hebron. All of the gates allowing entrance to and exit from the Old City souq on its east side were locked or barred shut to Palestinian residents and non-Jewish international visitors.
The closure caused significant difficulties for teachers and pupils. A woman—widely known as the “ladder lady”— whose house is on Shuhada Street, along which the Jewish worshipers walk, allowed Palestinians to use her house for getting in and out of the souq (market). In the morning, they rang her bell, and walked through her house and down the stairway into Shuhada Street. The Israeli police on duty in the morning allowed the children and teachers then to cross Shuhada Street on their way to school.
However, when school ended for the day and the children and teachers tried to make the return trip, Israeli soldiers and police initially refused to allow them to cross Shuhada Street, saying that the Old City souq was closed. Teachers, a local community leader, and CPTers asked the police to let the children cross. They pointed out to a senior Israeli policeman that if he did not allow the children to cross Shuhada Street they would have to take a detour of at least three miles. ‘Let them walk three miles,’ he responded. An Israeli peace activist contacted the Israeli DCO (District Coordinating Office) to ask them to intervene. For whatever reason, after a delay, the soldiers and police allowed the children and teachers to cross Shuhada Street, and the ladder lady allowed them to go through her house on their way home.
However, a gate to the Old City was open to some visitors. During the morning, Israeli soldiers accompanied several groups of settler-led Jewish groups through the Palestinian souq.
Passover continues through next Tuesday.