As Israeli justice minister, Tzipi Livni, met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on Wednesday, the Israel Civil Administration approved a plan to build 296 housing units in the West Bank settlement of Beit El; an Israeli newspaper reported.
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon approved the construction of the new housing units in line with a promise the government had made to settlers. A previous Israeli government had promised to build 90 new housing units in the settlements in an attempt to prevent clashes during the eviction of the Ulpana settlement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously made undertakings to stop further settlement construction until next June when he met with Kerry, angering heads of settler groups.
According to the newspaper, Ya’alon met with heads of Jewish settlers on Tuesday and told them that construction would indeed continue. Netanyahu confirmed that there were delays in issuing construction bids due to errors, but that they would be issued soon.
Settlers hoped that the approval of new housing units would mean the beginning of further settlement plans in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
In Rome, Livni hoped that “enthusiastic and determined” Kerry would move the peace process forward after four years of stalemate.
“We believe that re-launching the negotiations and achieving an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is in the Israeli interest, but yet there is a need for Secretary John Kerry’s efforts to create something new after four years of stagnation,” Livni said.
Kerry has been holding talks with Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab officials for months. The Israeli newspaper said that he is expected to meet Netanyahu and Abbas separately later in May.
The US Secretary of State said, “I think it is fair to say that we are working through threshold questions and we are doing it with a seriousness of purpose, which I think Minister Livni would agree with, has not been present for a while.”
Stressing the importance of achieving something as soon as possible Livni said, “We all believe that we are working with a short time span. We understand the imperative to try to have some sense of direction as rapidly as we can.”
Kerry has been mobilizing Arab support for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in case he is obliged to offer concessions to Israelis in order to reach a peace deal. Kerry also hopes to set up foundations for a wider peace with the Arab states.
Recently, he achieved a diplomatic victory when the Arab league delegation in Washington announced an agreement to accept that a land swap deal could be reached between Palestinians and Israelis based on the 1967 borders.
Despite their ferocity, the March 9th 2013 clashes in the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa failed to make international headlines. The virtual news black-out was indicative of prevailing attitudes towards Jerusalem as a whole. Palestinian officials argue, and rightly so, that even the Arab media is complicit in this neglect. With every outrage committed in Al-Aqsa Mosque tensions rise to boiling point, evoking memories of September 2000 when Ariel Sharon ignited the second intifada with his provocative incursion into the Mosque compound.
Palestinians’ daily harassment at checkpoints, house demolitions and arbitrary arrests at the hands of Israelis are surely bad enough. However, the willful desecration of religious sites and Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular, is one indignity too many. In recent days Israel has taken its violations to new levels with a spate of incursions into the mosque, ending with the defiling of the Holy Qur’an.
Can things get worse? Many are expecting a dramatic turn of events. According to the Chief Imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Shaikh Ekrima Sabri, “The arrogance of the Israeli occupation and its on-going provocations will ignite the third uprising and no one will be able to stop it.”
For now, the Israelis are hoping that Mahmoud Abbas and his security forces will prevent this from happening. As a pre-emptive measure they have arrested scores of young men across the West Bank. Abbas vows that he will not allow another intifada. In this regard he is consistent, for he was staunchly opposed to the 2000 uprising. Besides, there is also the spectre of what happened to his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, who was blamed for instigating and encouraging the Aqsa Intifada.
There was, however, no justification for last week’s gratuitous violence. There were no attacks on Israelis or their property. The only Palestinian “crime” was that they protested against the defiling of the Qur’an by an Israeli soldier who was filmed kicking the Holy Book days earlier.
Friday’s attack on worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque left scores injured. Israeli soldiers and Special Forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets at worshippers inside the mosque. The obvious conclusion from this is that Israel is determined to raise tensions in the run up to US President Barack Obama’s visit to the country.
The ugly scenes in Islam’s third most sacred mosque were preceded hours before by the desecration of the graves of revered Islamic scholars and sages in Ma’man Allah cemetery. Eighty-five per cent of the cemetery has been seized to build amusement parks, museums and even dog kennels. Two recent developments illustrated the shambolic approach of western politicians and governments to these manifestly criminal acts. The first was a threat from a gutless Canadian government to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority if it resorts to an international court to seek redress against the Israelis. Canada’s Foreign Minister [John Baird] made the announcement at the annual conference of the largest North American pro-Israel lobby group, AIPAC. In Britain, meanwhile, opposition leader Ed Miliband declared himself to be a Zionist and warned in a speech to the Board of Deputies of British Jews — the nearest thing to AIPAC on this side of the Atlantic that any thought of a boycott campaign against Israel is unacceptable. In both instances the message to the occupier was clear; carry on with more of the same illegal and unjust behaviour, we stand shoulder to shoulder with you.
UN Resolution 2787 called “upon all states dedicated to the ideals of freedom and peace to give all their political, moral and material assistance to peoples struggling for liberation, self-determination and independence against colonial and alien domination”; what happened to its lofty ideals? Countries like Canada and Britain appear to have abandoned them when the country being questioned is Israel.
On the ground, the coordination and division of roles between Israel’s army, Jewish settlers, the judiciary and the politicians continue unimpeded. The sacred Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has now, to all intents and purposes, been turned into an Israeli military outpost, contradicting the universal right to worship that all humanity is entitled to. Indeed, days after International Women’s Day, Palestinian women were prevented from attending classes in the mosques spread around Al-Aqsa’s courtyards. The silence of those critics of Islam who have a lot to say about Muslim women being oppressed is deafening in the face of the brutality of Israeli soldiers against Palestinian women.
In the absence of any meaningful political negotiations the politicians should tell us how to protect Palestinian rights. All they are doing at the moment is giving Israel time to realise its ambitions at the expense of Muslims.
These despicable acts of sacrilege will continue for as long as Israel enjoys the support of the US and its western allies. Every failure to act is an incentive which emboldens Israel to impose its administrative control over Al-Aqsa Mosque, to determine who enters the sacred site and when they can enter. These unjustified and deliberate attempts to insult and humiliate Muslims can only add to the dangerous climate of regional instability and move it inexorably towards the abyss of religious confrontation.
Dr. Daud Abdullah can be reached at: email@example.com.
- Historic buildings around Al-Aqsa continue to be demolished (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Ignore the hype. It’s four more years of settlement growth
NAZARETH — Israeli and Palestinian officials have been in Washington laying the ground for President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank, scheduled for next month and the first since he took office four years ago.
Topping the agenda, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said, will be efforts to restart the long-stalled peace process. Last week Palestinian officials said they had urged the White House to arrive with a diplomatic plan.
The US president began his first term on a different footing, ignoring Israel and heading instead to Cairo where he made a speech committing the US to a new era in relations with the Arab world. Little came of the promise.
Now he apparently intends to start his second term — as Netanyahu resumes office too, following last month’s elections — with an effort to engage with Israel and the Palestinians that is almost as certain to prove an exercise in futility.
The prospect of reviving the peace track between Israel and the Palestinians is not one that is appetising for either Obama or Netanyahu. Both are bruised from locking horns over a settlement freeze — the key plank of the US president’s efforts — during his first term.
But equally, it seems, the price of continuing inaction is high too. The Palestinians have repeatedly embarrassed Obama at the United Nations, not least by isolating the US in November as it opposed an upgrade in the Palestinians’ observer status. Inertia also looks risky given the growing unrest in the West Bank over hunger-striking prisoners.
Ahead lie potentially even bigger headaches, including the doomsday scenario — from Israel and Washington’s perspective — that the Palestinians approach the International Criminal Court to demand Israel be investigated for war crimes.
The perennial optimists have been searching for signs that Obama is readier this time to get tough. Neither of the president’s recent major appointments — John Kerry as secretary of state and Chuck Hagel, nominated as defence secretary — has been welcomed in Israel.
US determination has been buoyed, it is argued, by what is seen as a tide change in Israeli public opinion, highlighted by the surprise electoral success of centrist Yair Lapid and relatively poor showing by Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Netanyahu’s officials sense similar motives, complaining that Obama’s visit so soon after the election is direct “interference” in coalition-building. The centrists, they fear, will be able to extract concessions from Netanyahu, who will not wish to greet the US president as head of an extremist government.
Israeli officials, meanwhile, look eager to mend fences: they have hopefully codenamed the visit “Unbreakable Alliance” and announced an intention to award Obama Israel’s highest honour, the presidential medal.
The more hopeful scenarios, however, overlook the obstacles to a diplomatic solution posed both by Israel’s domestic politics and by the Palestinians’ inability to withstand Israeli bullying.
Not least, they ignore the fact that Netanyahu’s Knesset faction is the most right-wing in Likud’s history. He cannot advance a peace formula — assuming he wanted to — without tearing apart his party.
Equally, there is nothing in Lapid’s record to indicate he is willing to push for meaningful compromises on Palestinian statehood. On this issue, he occupies the traditional ground of Likud, before it moved further right. A recent poll found half his supporters called themselves right-wing.
Last week Netanyahu signed a coalition pact with another supposed centrist, Tzipi Livni, a former Likud leader who now heads a small faction called Hatnuah. The goal, as one Likud official cynically put it, was to use Livni to “whitewash the Netanyahu government in the world’s eyes”.
In other words, Netanyahu hopes a Livni or a Lapid will buy him breathing space as he entrenches the settlements and pushes Palestinians out of large areas of the West Bank under cover of what the Israeli newspaper Haaretz termed a “booby-trapped diplomatic process”.
What of the Palestinians? Will they not be able to mount an effective challenge to Israeli intransigence, given an apparent renewed US interest in diplomacy?
Here is the rub. Netanyahu already has a stranglehold on the politics of his potential peace partners. He can easily manipulate the fortunes of the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on the two biggest tests he faces: the “peace process” overseen by the international community, and reconciliation talks with the rival Palestinian faction Hamas.
The latest talks between Hamas and Fatah broke down in Cairo this month, even though unity, in the view of most Palestinians, is a precondition of their seeking viable statehood. The talks’ failure followed the “arrest” by Israel of 25 Hamas leaders in the West Bank, seizures that Palestinian human rights groups and Hamas warned were intended to disrupt reconciliation.
Meanwhile, Israel has repeatedly undermined Abbas’s rule, and kept his PA close to collapse, by turning on and off one of its major sources of income — tax monies Israel regularly collects on behalf of the Palestinians and is supposed to pass on.
As a result, Abbas is trapped between various pressures impossible to reconcile: the need to keep Israel happy, to maintain legitimacy with his own people and to foster a shared political agenda with other Palestinian factions.
The sticks that Israel wields force Abbas to keep the door open to negotiations even as most Palestinians recognise their utter pointlessness. Likewise, his constant need to appease Israel and the US serves only to widen differences with Hamas.
The Palestinians are stuck in a political and diplomatic cul-de-sac, unable to move forward either with the development of their national struggle or with talks on viable statehood. Whatever Obama’s intentions, the reality is that this will be another four years of diplomatic failure.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He won this year’s Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism.
The JTA staff has published “In the spirit of the holiday season, … its annual ode to the non-Jews who helped write the Jewish story this past year.”1
I’m quite uncertain about the practice of 0.65 percent of the world’s population2 determining who outside of them is to be singled out as a “Gentile” of the year.
I never call myself a Gentile, and I’d prefer if other people not refer to me in a way I do not wish to be identified. Human is sufficient for me. I am a human just like every other member of Homo sapiens. I see no need to separate myself out. Admittedly, this poses a bit of a logical conundrum because my inclusive preference has already, in essence, separated me from those who wish to separate themselves from others. Other physical and behavioral traits will also allow others to categorize me relative to other humans. This is true. Despite all this, I remain human and so does every other person: Muslim, Jew, Hindi, Arab, European, Chinese, White, Black, Green, Blue, gay, old, young, female, male, etc.
Eleven individuals were selected by the JTA staff on the basis of what they are not: they are not Jews. They were also selected on the basis of how they served Jewish interests.
To become a “Gentile of the year” all French-born choreographer Benjamin Millepied had to do was marry one of Hollywood’s most fetching actresses — Natalie Portman. Obviously the bar is quite low for Gentiles to ingratiate themselves with JTA staff.
Actress Claire Danes just had to do her job, acting in the Showtime series Homeland, “an adaptation of an Israeli TV show,” part of which was filmed in Israel.
The deputy speaker of Hungary’s parliament, Istvan Ujhelyi, took a stand that was rightful and public. He showed solidarity with the country’s Jewish community against extremist right-wingers. One wonders, however, about the plight of the comparatively more downtrodden Roma in Hungary. Which politician will take a stand for them?
“NBC sportscaster Bob Costas took it upon himself to remember the slain athletes and coaches,” writes JTA. What kind of person only shows concern about certain slain people? Has Costas ever publicly held a moment of silence for the dispossessed Palestinians? Did he hold a moment of silence for the victims of Zionist Israel’s massacre of Gazans? Does Costas’s public silence to the murders of Palestinians (fellow humans) make him worthy of being singled out as a Gentile of the year?
Newt Gingrich, who calls Palestinians an “invented people,” was also singled out since he “stood his ground, however, saying he supported a negotiated peace but that the onus was on the Palestinians.” What kind of topsy-turvy world is it in which the dispossessed, the occupied, the oppressed have the onus for peace placed upon them by the dispossessors, occupiers, oppressors?
Singer Chaka Khan is a Gentile of the year for “raising $14 million to support the well-being of Israeli soldiers.” These soldiers are the lethal force of the dispossession, occupation, and oppression. Singer Stevie Wonder saw fit to back out of the concert benefiting occupation forces; Chaka Khan decided otherwise. For this she is singled out by JTA.
British tabloid reporters Brian Flynn and Ryan Parry proved “it’s never too late for justice.” They helped nab a suspected war criminal Ladislaus Csizsik-Csatary, 97, implicated in Jewish deaths during World War II. I share no sympathy for war criminals, and there is no statute of limitations on war crimes. That is something Israeli war criminals ought to bear in mind.
JTA considers Mohamed Morsi worthy of singling out for the importance he has and will have for Israel. Barack Obama is an important figure for Israel as well. Strangely enough, arch-Zionist collaborator Mahmoud Abbas was not “honored” as a Gentile of the year.
Special praise, however, was bestowed upon Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper:
an unabashed Israel supporter is an understatement. In the last few months, Harper has shuttered Canada’s embassy in Tehran, listed Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, personally pressured Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (unsuccessfully) to drop the Palestinians’ bid for statehood at the United Nations and signed a series of defense pacts with Israel. Israeli President Shimon Peres has called him “an extraordinary friend.”
Yet Harper is extraordinarily biased against Palestinians. That is not surprising, as Harper also takes a strongly colonialist line against First Nations in Canada.
Couldn’t JTA come up with a worthier list from 99.35 percent of the planet’s population?
I am not much for lists of personalities. However, if I were to draw up a list of people, I would refrain from singling out a specific segment of humanity. First, I would attempt to determine what special traits should make people worthy for singling out on a list. I submit that those who dedicate themselves or sacrifice themselves for the good of the greater humanity are worthy of recognition.
- I propose the following list of humans to recognize. No particular ranking is meant to be imparted, and the list is not to be considered exhaustive:
- • peace activists
• anti-poverty activists
• supporters of the dignity of labor
• environmental activists
• resistance movements
• Indigenous rights activists
• supporters of LGBTQ rights
• justice/prison rights activists
• women’s rights supporters
There are many people toiling on behalf of others less fortunate in the world. It, therefore, seems remiss to focus on any one or a few persons. Ultimately, it is the mass of humanity that determines what kind of world we all live in. Apathy, inactivity, and insouciance are enemies of a Brave New World for which there are repercussions. Such surrender is very much partially to blame for why the world is beset by war, killing, massive inequality in income and wealth, resource exploitation for private profit with nary a regard for the wider public’s use and enjoyment of the environment, oppression, as well as other social injustices. Consequently, it is a must for a society inclined toward progressivism to cultivate the desired traits among the people that lead to the desired world.
- JTA Staff, “Gentiles of the Year 2012,” JTA, 28 December 2012.
- Aaron Kalman, “Global Jewish population grows by 88,000 over past year,” Times of Israel, 9 September 2012.
Kim Petersen can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Few aspects of Canadian foreign policy have been mentioned more times over the past two weeks than Ottawa’s 300 million dollar five year aid program to the Palestinians.
Ever since the Globe and Mail reported on November 26 that Prime Minister Stephen Harper threatened Mahmoud Abbas that “there will be consequences” if he followed through on his plan to ask the UN General Assembly to upgrade Palestine’s status there has been a great deal of speculation about whether Canadian “aid” would be cut off. A quick Google search brings up hundreds of articles mentioning the 300 million dollars in funding yet none of them mention the highly politicized character of this “aid”.
After Hamas won legislative elections in January 2006 the Conservatives made Canada the first country (after Israel) to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority. When Hamas officials were ousted from the Palestinian unity government in June 2007, the Conservatives immediately contributed $8 million “in direct support to the new government.” Then in December 2007 the Conservatives announced a five-year $300 million aid program to the Palestinians, which was largely designed to serve Israel’s interests.
A Saint John Telegraph-Journal headline explained: “Canada’s aid to Palestine benefits Israel, foreign affairs minister says.” In January 2008 foreign minister Maxime Bernier said: “We are doing that [providing aid to the PA] because we want Israel to be able to live in peace and security with its neighbours.”
Most of the Canadian aid money has gone to building up a Palestinian security force overseen by a US general. The immediate impetus of the Canadian aid was to create a Palestinian security force “to ensure that the PA maintains control of the West Bank against Hamas,” as Canadian Ambassador to Israel Jon Allen was quoted as saying by the Canadian Jewish News. American General Keith Dayton, in charge of organizing a 10,000-member Palestinian security force, even admitted that he was strengthening Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah against Hamas, telling a US audience in May 2009 his force was “working against illegal Hamas activities.” According to Al Jazeera, between 2007 and early 2011 PA security forces arrested some 10,000 suspected Hamas supporters in the West Bank.
The broader aim of the US-Canada-Britain initiated Palestinian security reform was to build a force to patrol Israel’s occupied territories. In a 2011 profile of Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel Ron Allison, “Dayton’s chief of liaison in the West Bank” for a year, his hometown newspaper reported: “The Dayton team was concerned with enhancing security on the West Bank of Palestine and was all geared towards looking after and ensuring the security of Israel, said Ron.”
“We don’t provide anything to the Palestinians,” noted Dayton, “unless it has been thoroughly coordinated with the state of Israel and they agree to it.” For instance, Israel’s internal intelligence agency, the Shin-Bet, vets all of the Palestinian recruits.
The Israelis supported Dayton’s force as a way to keep the West Bank population under control. Like all colonial authorities throughout history Israel looked to compliant locals to take up the occupation’s security burden. In a December 2011 article titled “[Ehud] Barak admires PA security forces for protecting [Israeli] settlers [in the West Bank]” a Palestinian news agency described an interview the Israeli defence minister gave to a Hebrew radio station.
Writing in a July 2011 issue of the London Review of Books Adam Shatz explained: “The PA already uses the American-trained National Security Force to undermine efforts by Palestinians to challenge the occupation. (Hamas, in Gaza, has cracked down on protest even more harshly.) ‘They are the police of the occupation,’ Myassar Atyani, a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told me. ‘Their leadership is not Palestinian, it is Israeli.’ On 15 May – the day Palestinians commemorate their Nakba [the 1948 destruction of Palestinian society] – more than a thousand Palestinians, mainly young men, marched to the Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem and clashed with Israeli soldiers; but when Atyani tried to lead a group of demonstrators to the Hawara checkpoint outside Nablus, PA security forces stopped them. The road from Ramallah to Qalandia is in Area C, which is not controlled by the PA; the road from Nablus to Hawara is in Area A, which is. And protesters who have attempted to march to settlements along PA-controlled roads have also found themselves turned back. It is an extraordinary arrangement: the security forces of a country under occupation are being subcontracted by third parties outside the region to prevent resistance to the occupying power, even as that power continues to grab more land. This is, not surprisingly, a source of considerable anger and shame in the West Bank.”
The Palestinian security force is largely trained in Jordan at the US- built International Police Training Center (created to train Iraqi security after the 2003 invasion). In October 2009 the Wall Street Journal reported: “[Palestinian] recruits are trained in Jordan by Jordanian police, under the supervision of American, Canadian, and British officers.” The number of military trainers in the West Bank varied slightly but in mid-2010 18 Canadian troops worked with six British and ten US soldiers under Dayton’s command. “The Canadian contribution is invaluable,” explained Dayton. Canadians are particularly useful because “US personnel have travel restrictions when operating in the West Bank. But, our British and Canadian members do not.” Calling them his “eyes and ears” Dayton said: “The Canadians … are organized in teams we call road warriors, and they move around the West Bank daily visiting Palestinian security leaders, gauging local conditions.”
Part of the US Security Coordinator office in Jerusalem, the Canadian military mission in the West Bank (dubbed Operation PROTEUS) includes RCMP officers as well as officials from Foreign Affairs, Justice Canada and the Canadian Border Services Agency. In a September 2010 interview with the Jerusalem Post then deputy foreign minister Peter Kent said Operation PROTEUS was Canada’s “second largest deployment after Afghanistan” and it receives “most of the money” from the five-year $300 million Canadian “aid” program to the Palestinians. During a visit to Israel in February, foreign minister John Baird told the Globe and Mail he was “incredibly thrilled” by the West Bank security situation, which he said benefited Israel.
In effect, Canada has helped to build a security apparatus to protect a corrupt PA led by Mahmoud Abbas, whose electoral mandate expired in January 2009, but whom the Israeli government prefers over Hamas.
Don’t expect the Conservative government to sever this “aid”.
Nazareth – In the shadow of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s theatrics at the United Nations last week, armed with his cartoon Iranian bomb, Israeli officials launched a quieter, but equally combative, initiative to extinguish whatever hopes have survived of reviving the peace process.
For the first time in its history, Israel is seeking to equate millions of Palestinians in refugee camps across the Middle East with millions of Israeli citizens descended from Jews who, before Israel’s establishment in 1948, lived in Arab countries.
According to Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, whose parents were originally from Iraq and who has been leading the government campaign, nearly a million Jews fled countries such as Iraq, Egypt, Morocco and Yemen. That figure exceeds the generally accepted number of 750,000 Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war.
Israel’s goal is transparent: it hopes the international community can be persuaded that the suffering of Palestinian refugees is effectively cancelled out by the experiences of “Jewish refugees”. If nothing can be done for Arab Jews all these years later, then Palestinians should expect no restitution either.
Over the past few weeks that has been the message implicit in a social media campaign called “I am a refugee”, which includes YouTube videos in which Jews tell of being terrorised while living in Arab states after 1948. Ayalon has even announced plans for a new day of national commemoration, Jewish Refugee Day.
This month, the Israeli foreign ministry and US Jewish organisations formally launched the initiative, staging a conference in New York a few days before the opening sessions of the General Assembly.
Israel’s choice of arena – the UN – is not accidental. The campaign is chiefly designed to stifle the move announced by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his General Assembly speech last week to begin seeking UN status for Palestine as a non-member state.
After opposition from the US forced the Palestinians to abort their bid for statehood at the UN Security Council last year, Abbas is expected to delay making his new request until November, after the US presidential election campaign to avoid embarrassing President Barack Obama.
Abbas’s move has spurred Israel to take the offensive.
Anyone who doubts that the Israeli government’s concern for Arab Jews is entirely cynical only has to trace the campaign’s provenance. It was considered for the first time in 2009, when Netanyahu was forced – under pressure from Obama – to deliver a speech backing Palestinian statehood.
Immediately afterwards, Netanyahu asked the National Security Council, whose role includes assessing strategic threats posed by the Palestinians, to weigh the merits of championing the Arab Jews’ case in international forums.
The NSC’s advice is that Arab Jews, known in Israel as Mizrahim and comprising a small majority of the total Jewish population, should be made a core issue in the peace process. As Israel knows, that creates a permanent stumbling block to an agreement.
The NSC has proposed impossible demands: contrition from all Arab states before a peace deal with the Palestinians can be reached; a decoupling of refugee status and the right of return; and the right of Arab Jews to greater compensation than Palestinian refugees, based on their superior wealth.
Israel is working on other fronts too to undermine the case for Palestinian refugees. Its US lobbyists are demanding that UNRWA, the UN agency for the refugees, be dismantled.
Bipartisan pressure is mounting in the US Congress to count as refugees only Palestinians personally displaced from their homes in 1948, stripping millions of descendants of their status. While another – and seemingly contradictory – legislative move would insist on Arab Jews being granted the same refugee status as Palestinians.
The Palestinians are deeply opposed to any linkage between Arab Jews and Palestinian refugees. Not least, they argue, they cannot be held responsible for what took place in other countries. Justice for Palestinian refugees is entirely separate from justice for Arab Jews.
Moreover, many, if not most, Arab Jews left their homelands voluntarily, unlike Palestinians, to begin a new life in Israel. Even where tensions forced Jews to flee, such as in Iraq, it is hard to know who was always behind the ethnic strife. There is strong evidence that Israel’s Mossad spy agency waged false-flag operations in Arab states to fuel the fear and hostility needed to drive Arab Jews towards Israel.
Likewise, Israel’s claim that it has a right to represent Arab Jews collectively and lay claim to compensation on their behalf ignores the reality that Israel was compensated handsomely for absorbing Jews, both through massive post-war reparations from countries such as Germany and through billions of dollars in annual handouts from the United States.
But there is a more fundamental reason to be sceptical of this campaign. Classifying Arab Jews as “refugees” skewers the central justification used by Zionists for Israel’s creation: that it is the natural homeland for all Jews, and the only place where they can be safe. As a former Israeli MP, Ran Hacohen, once observed: “I came at the behest of Zionism, due to the pull that this land exerts, and due to the idea of redemption. Nobody is going to define me as a refugee.”
Netanyahu’s government is making a deeply anti-Zionist argument, one it has been forced to adopt because of its own intransigence in the peace process.
Its refusal to countenance a small Palestinian state in the 1967 borders means the global community feels compelled to reassess the events of 1948. For most Arab Jews, that period is now a closed chapter. For most Palestinian refugees, it is still an open wound.
After the death of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat seven years ago, many voices called for an official and open investigation into the cause; they were ignored. Palestinian, Arabic and even international parties have been trying to keep the cause hidden or, at least, away from serious discussion.
There are strong suggestions that those behind Arafat’s death were the Israelis, backed by the US, as they used to announce repeatedly and loudly that he was an obstacle to the peace process. That idea was developed after his famous stance at the second Camp David summit in 1999.
The unknown factor is who helped the Israelis and Americans to assassinate the Palestinian President. It seems obvious that he must have been a Palestinian from the leader’s close coterie. Doubts surround Arafat’s successors who divided his heritage among themselves but did not follow the way that he had set out in the way he treated the Israelis; they opted for another, worse way, which is leading the Palestinians to an unknown end.
Not only Fatah members or PLO factions but also all Palestinians used to ask for a public inquiry to know the reasons for Arafat’s death. The issue is still a cause of discontent among the current Palestinian leadership whose members were ready to occupy his position.
Many of Arafat’s successors across the leadership promised to launch a public inquiry, but they have not done so. They did not even publish the report from the French military hospital where Arafat passed away. That created even more suspicions among Palestinian citizens and factions.
Following an investigation by Aljazeera TV, it now seems almost certain that Arafat was killed by a dose of Polonium, the same radioactive substance which was used to kill the ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. It is not known yet who was responsible, or how this substance was administered to Arafat. Some say it was inserted through his ear, some through a poisoned kiss, and others a poisoned meal.
There is a prime suspect, but he will not be named easily until a comprehensive, independent investigation has been carried out. Aljazeera’s report, broadcast on Tuesday, did not name exactly who was involved in Arafat’s death; it did, though, prove that he was killed by Polonium which must have been injected or inserted into his body by one of his close aides.
For now, there are some important facts which should be made public about this issue. The first is that Mahmoud Abbas was the main tool used by Arafat’s foes to diminish his power when he was nominated to be the first Palestinian Prime Minster while the President was still alive. That was clearly against Arafat’s will, and his supporters took to the streets in massive demonstrations all over the Palestinian territories calling Abbas a collaborator with the Israelis and Americans. Those demonstrations continued until Abbas was deposed as PM.
After Arafat’s death, Abbas was in control of all of his positions and somewhat miraculously became the only choice to succeed him as President, supported by all Fatah and PLO leaders. Abbas was also welcomed by the Israelis, Arab, US and other international leaders as Arafat’s logical successor and the real partner for peace in the Middle East.
The fact that Mahmoud Abbas refused any kind of investigation into his predecessor’s death increases doubts about plans to keep the cause a secret. It is known that cultures from Arafat’s body were taken several days after his death to be tested in French, Jordanian and Tunisian laboratories, but they were “lost”.
Even the conditions surrounding Arafat’s burial were suspicious. Sheikh Tayssit al-Tamimi, the Palestinian Mufti who led the funeral prayer, confirmed several times on different occasions that there was suspicion regarding Arafat’s death.
Another important point relates to Mohammed Dahlan, who was one of the planned successors of Arafat. In a meeting in one of Gaza’s mosques in 2006, Yasser Abu-Helal, the founder of Al Ahrar Movement, declared that Dahlan had told Hamas leader Abdul Aziz al-Rantissi that his movement must take part in a campaign of incitement against Arafat in 2004 to protect him from being assassinated by the Israelis.
Rantissi refused and the head of the Hamas Political Bureau, Khaled Meshaal, told a press conference that Yasser Arafat was the target of a dirty tricks campaign by Palestinian figures; he said that Hamas would not keep silent if any harm came to President Arafat.
Neverthess, Yasser Arafat was killed and no formal investigations have been conducted. It is important now, following Aljazeera’s investigations, for a public inquiry to be opened by the International Criminal Court, which has the legal authority to conduct such an investigation. This is an issue of international importance, given that the peace process is still trundling on to nowhere. Palestinians need to know who has their best interests at heart, and who killed Yasser Arafat.
- PA Agrees to Exhume Body of Yasser Arafat After Evidence of Radiation Poisoning Alleged (alethonews.wordpress.com)
TULKAREM — Palestinian MPs denounced president Mahmoud Abbas for declaring readiness to resume negotiations with Israel in a statement on Friday.
Hassan Khreisheh, the second deputy speaker of the Palestinian legislative council, considered Abbas’s statement concerning the possibility of holding a meeting with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu if Tel Aviv released prisoners and allowed the Palestinian police to import weapons as “an attempt to return to negotiations”.
He added that the statement pointed to a clear retreat from all the conditions set for the resumption of negotiations, most importantly the halt of settlements’ construction in the Palestinian territories.
Khreisheh told Quds Press on Saturday that “President Abbas’s statement reflected the Palestinian leadership’s state of hesitation and fear of the unknown, especially because of the crisis it is facing, so it is looking for ways to ensure its survival.”
For its part, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) expressed its refusal of direct negotiations with Israel, recalling that such an approach “had failed in the past period.”
MP Khalida Jarrar, a PFLP politburo member, said in an exclusive statement to Quds Press on Saturday that “the emphasis on the return to negotiations every now and then in case of the presence of certain conditions, is a repetition of the same previous mistakes.”
She said, “What is required is a halt to direct negotiations and to depend rather on the UN to compel the occupation to implement the international resolutions”.
- Why Israel Has No “Right to Exist” as a Jewish State (alethonews.wordpress.com)