Posts Tagged ‘netanyahu’

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Weekly Post: 4 Boys Killed in 24 Hours

March 21, 2010

 1,600 Illegal Settlement Housing Units Approved in East Jerusalem

 Well, this week has been especially violent. The Israeli provocations began with the announcement of the approval of 1,600 more housing units for illegal Jewish settlements on occupied territory around East Jerusalem. This announcement coincided with the visit of Vice President Biden of the U.S.—who was visiting the region in an attempt to restart the stalled indirect peace talks between Israel and Palestine—and is seen by many Americans as a slap in the face.

 Because of this announcement, and Netanyahu’s failure to call President Obama to tell him whether he would allow the plan to proceed, the Quartet meeting which was supposed to decide the next step in the peace process couldn’t accomplish anything. Works out well for Israel…

 Ibrihimi Mosque Takeover, Protests in Hebron and Beit Ummar

 The other provocation was the Israeli takeover of the Ibrihimi Mosque in Hebron—a site that has religious importance to both Judaism and Islam because it was built by Abraham/Ibrihim, a patriarch of both religions. Many Palestinians see this as the first step of the Israeli government’s takeover of more Muslim religious sites in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

 There have been violent protests in Hebron in response to the takeover. Most of them have been subdued by the Palestinian Authority—reinforcing the common belief that the PA is working with the Israeli military against their own people.

 Residents of Beit Ummar, a village near Hebron, have also organized protests against the Israeli policies. Dozens have been injured and arrested.

 Hurva Synagogue Reopened

 These fears were somewhat realized when the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish quarter of East Jerusalem was opened last week. This synagogue is symbolic of the Jewish people returning Jerusalem to them as their “undivided, eternal capital.”

 There is also a prediction from the Vilna Gaon that the third time this synagogue is rebuilt, the Jewish people will start construction on the Third Temple—which would have to be built on the same place as the 1st and 2nd temples, meaning the place where Al Aqsa stands (the Dome of the Rock, the third holiest site in Islam).

 The opening of the Hurva Synagogue was supposed to be followed by an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish march around the Temple Mount (Al Aqsa compound) which would culminate in them laying the cornerstone of the Third Temple—symbolizing the destruction of Al Aqsa and the coming of the Messiah.

 Luckily, the Israeli police decided that would be too much of a provocation considering how much protesting had already been going on around the Old City. It is still a planned event, but it is not sure when they will be able to do it.

  East Jerusalem Protests

 Because of these events, along with the closure of the Old City to any Palestinian men under the age of 50, there have been protests all over East Jerusalem (in the Old City, Shuafat Refugee Camp, Qalandia, Eisawiyya, and Wadi Joz) over the past week. So far, over 250 Palestinians have been arrested (many of them teenagers who were suspected of throwing stones). There have been almost 100 injuries.

 Shuafat Refugee Camp

 I went to the protest at Shuafat on Saturday. The Israeli soldiers closed off the entrance to the camp. In the early afternoon, young kids began throwing stones at the soldiers who had closed their camp.

 The Israeli soldiers shot teargas and rubber coated steel bullets at the children, ending with 11 injuries and 15 arrests.

 Qalandia Refugee Camp

 On Friday, I went to the Qalandia protests. There were hundreds of teenagers and young Palestinians out in the street leading to the checkpoint. They were throwing stones at the occupation soldiers.

 The soldiers were shooting a lot of teargas, at head level, like rockets shooting down the street. There were dozens injured who were protesting, none serious.

 Palestinian Man Beaten and Thrown off Balcony by Israeli soldiers

 There had been protests all week at Qalandia, and the Israeli soldiers had taken positions on top of an apartment building in order to be able to shoot the kids more efficiently. They invaded the home of 25 year old Abdullah Lafee on the third floor, and beat him while he was sitting in his home.

 After they had beaten him to the point that his face was split open, they threw him off the 3rd storey balcony. And didn’t stop there…

 They went to where he fell and beat him again. He is still alive, but nearly every bone in his body is broken and at least one organ is ruptured.

  Bil’in and Ni’lin

 Earlier this week, the Israeli military declared Bil’in and Ni’lin to be “closed military areas”. This means that no international or Israeli activists are allowed to be in the protest areas on Fridays—effectively stopping the nonviolent resistance movements there.

 At Bil’in on Friday, there were hardly any international or Israeli activists there. The few protestors that were there marched to the wall to find there were no Israeli soldiers. The protest ended soon after.

 In Ni’lin, the entire village was closed by the Israeli military, preventing any activists from reaching the demonstration. One Palestinian protestor was shot and injured, but is in stable condition.

 Nabe Saleh

 Because Ni’lin and Bil’in protests were prevented by the Israeli military, most of the international and Israeli activists went to Nabe Saleh instead. This Friday was one of the most violent protests so far in the village.

 10 village homes were attacked and invaded—reinforcing the Palestinian belief that Israelis don’t differentiate between protestor and civilian.

 25 protestors were shot indiscriminately by the Israeli military with teargas canisters and rubber coated steel bullets. Several American and Israeli activists were among those shot, and several were also arrested.

 A 14 year old Palestinian boy was shot and is not in a coma.

 An 82 year old woman was shot in the head with a teargas canister and has been brain damaged.

 4 Boys Dead in Nablus Area

 In Iraq Bourin, a village close to Nablus, 2 teenage boys were killed by the Israeli military while nonviolently protesting the theft of their land. One was shot in the heart with live ammunition and the other was shot in the head with live ammunition.

 Their funerals were held today, and were attended by thousands of Palestinians.

 Earlier today, 2 more teenage boys were killed while working in their fields outside of Awarta village near an Israeli checkpoint. They were approached by Israeli soldiers asking for their IDs, and then were shot in cold blood.

 The first IDF statement was that the boys attacked the soldiers with pitchforks. That statement was immediately denied by all the villagers. Later, the IDF spokesperson admitted that the boys had been working in the fields with farming tools and that the soldiers had gunned them down without being attacked.

A third boy was injured in the Israeli attack, and taken away by the soldiers. He was thought to be dead, but has just been returned alive—as the only Palestinian witness to what actually happened, the fact that he is alive and returned may be why the IDF changed their statement about the “attack” on the soldiers.

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Weekly Post:

March 14, 2010

 West Bank Closure Extended

 Well, for part of this past week, the Israeli government decided to seal off the West Bank checkpoints. Internationals and those seeking medical treatment, or who have jobs in Israel are technically allowed to pass. I went through Qalandia checkpoint on Friday and Saturday and they were turning away most of the Palestinians, even the ones who had the permit to go to Jerusalem or a blue ID (that means they were born in Jerusalem and are allowed to cross into Israel).

 The closure was supposed to end on Sunday but has been extended to at least Tuesday.

 Tension at Al Aqsa Mosque

 This extension is most likely due to the recent tensions at Al Aqsa mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Israeli settlers and police have invaded the compound at least once in the past week and have stated that they will enter again.

 Whenever they invade the compound, the Palestinian youth defend the mosque by protesting and trying to prevent the settlers from entering. Israel usual has a few undercover guys who mix in with the Palestinians and incite the crowd by throwing stones, glass or other objects in the direction of the police. After that, the Israeli police and military can respond in whatever way they want.

 Old City Restrictions

 Israel’s assault on the Old City’s Palestinian residents doesn’t stop there. The IDF stormed most of the Old City’s Palestinian stalls and shops, confiscating the IDs of anyone not living in the Old City. Those people are then supposed to go to the temporary checkpoints at the Damascus and Herods gate to collect their papers—and they will most likely not allowed to return to their shops.

 There are already strict restrictions on which Palestinians can enter the Old City because of the tensions over the Al Aqsa Mosque. Only those Palestinian males over 50 or young children are allowed into the Old City. These restrictions have been in place for a few days now, and prevent people from reaching their jobs and their homes.

 Nablus Mosque Receives Demolition Order

 Claiming that the construction of the Salman Al Farisi Mosque is illegal because it does not have the correct building license, Israel has issued a demolition order on the mosque. The residents, who contributed their own money to build this mosque—which is already 3 floors tall, have the option to demolish it themselves or let the Israeli IDF demolish it (which residents will have to pay for!).

 Nonviolent Resistance

 Iraq Bourin

 In Iraq Bourin, a village near Nablus, 6 people were injured as they nonviolently protested against the theft of their land. On the march towards their stolen land, Israeli settlers entered the village to provoke the villagers. The IDF came “to intervene” and fired teargas; rubber coated steel bullets, and sound bombs on the demonstrators. One Danish national was injured.

 Testing New Weapons on Demonstrators

 Many protestors from the past weeks protests have claimed that the IDF is using new weapons—and perhaps even testing these new weapons on West Bank protestors. In Sheikh Jarrah, the IDF soldiers were wearing their ammunition strapped across their chests—instead of bullets it was the high-velocity teargas canisters that killed my friend Bassem in Bil’in, except now the tips of the bullet-shaped teargas canisters are blue. Don’t know what the difference is in practice between the two.

 I also heard that the IDF is testing new explosive devices, but no more details on that yet.

 Sheikh Jarrah

 In Sheikh Jarrah this Friday there were about 300 protestors—mostly Israeli activists. It was the most boring protest I’ve ever been to! We couldn’t even walk down the street to the houses that are supposed to be demolished, which is the point. The police blocked the street with some barriers and that was enough to stop the protest.

 So when the Israeli group arrived from West Jerusalem we all just stood on a little hill by the police barriers and shouted slogans. Then about 5 police/military vans showed up full of Israeli soldiers with the high-velocity blue-tipped teargas canisters strapped across their chests like Rambo. As if they could use those in such a close space, and on Israeli activists?

 I think just to mess with us; they had the police-soldiers push us across the street. This was the only time there was trouble. Some Israeli activists resisted and the police carried them off to be detained for 5 minutes—making a big show for the photographers as they were fighting and being carried away.

 After that, we stood on the other side of the street doing nothing, surrounded by the police who wouldn’t so much as let us step off the sidewalk. Some settlers showed up later and threw stones (the ONLY ones who threw stones at Sheikh Jarrah this week –and normally). They also attacked some people eating in restaurants in the area by stoning them. One was injured.

 Beit Ummar

4 protestors were detained in Beit Ummar protests, including at least one journalist. Several internationals that have been living in the village were assaulted by the Israeli military for no apparent reason.

 Ni’lin

 The protest in Ni’lin this week was in honor of Tristan Anderson, an American activist that was shot in the head by the same high velocity teargas canister that killed Bassem in Bil’in. He was in a coma for about a year and just recently woke up—it’s still not clear what kind of damage the injury and coma have done to his brain. His parents have brought a case against the Israeli military for his injuries.

Rachel Corrie’s parents recently brought a case to the Israeli Supreme Court suing for damages after her death a few years ago when an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer ran her over. So far, the Israeli government has not accepted any responsibility for their crime.

Bil’in

Bil’in villagers and international activists protested in solidarity with the residents of the Old City in Jerusalem. Dozens were teargassed and 2 children were shot with rubber coated steel bullets.

Nabe Saleh

It was a very violent protest in Nabe Saleh this week. There were reportedly 20 injuries from rubber coated steel bullets, including 3 in the head that required hospital treatment. All of those shot were under 25 years old.

Ehab Barghouthi, 14, who was shot in the head last week with a rubber coated steel bullet that entered his skull above his right eye is now breathing for himself and slowly recovering.

Netanyahu’s Slap in the Face to the US

On the exact day when US VP Biden visited the region to try to advance indirect peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Israeli government announced the approval of 1600 new housing units in illegal settlements around East Jerusalem.

The US has made its position on settlement expansion perfectly clear to the Israeli government–and has agreed with the Palestinian government that peace talks are impossible without a settlement freeze. The announcement and its timing were a slap in the face to the US–who is Israel’s closest (and only?) ally. Without the 7 million dollars a day in military aid the US gives to Israel, the country would be completely insecure.

The arrogance of the Israeli government knows no bounds! Hopefully the US will teach them a little respect. But I doubt it…

Side Note:

Since the West Bank is seriously lacking in nice parks to lay out in the sun in during the summer, my roommate discovered a park in West Jerusalem that has a stream running through it and some trees and everything. We went there yesterday to celebrate the beautiful day.

Today I found out its built on top of an old Palestinian cemetery?! In 1965, the Israeli government decided to relocate the graves of some of the most important leaders and Arab residents of Jerusalem back to 1000 years ago.

During the construction that involved relocating the graves and remains to another site, human remains were reported to be strewn across the site. The Jerusalem authorities were unresponsive to Palestinian outcries against this desecration.

So thats where I was laying in the sun yesterday. #*@&!&! Only in Israel…………

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Biden’s Visit with Abbas in the West Bank

March 11, 2010

So yesterday, when my friend from the PA told me it was the VP of Brazil, he was JOKING.

The real visitor, as I found out soon after, was the VP of the USA, Biden. The PA didnt want to announce his visit beforehand because of the security risk. Now at least I understand the need for the huge military presence in all the streets of Ramallah.

Anyways, I had low expectations of the impact of Biden’s visit to the region. But he did do a couple of good things. He showed up an hour and a half late to his dinner meeting with PM Netanyahu in Israel. Hahaha. Then when Netanyahu announced the government’s approval of 1600 new housing units in a settlement near Jerusalem, on occupied Palestinian territory, he snapped and “condemned” Israel’s decision.

Of course the word “condemn” has been thrown around so much about Israel’s activities, and never followed by any concrete measures, so it doesn’t mean anything on the ground. But at least he condemned them. And he did an interview with Al Jazeera explaining the irrationality of Netanyahu’s behavior and how it was only serving to break the “trust” between the Israelis and Palestinians who are trying to restart negotiations.

I think he might be starting to get the point. ha.

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Hebron Clashes Over Israeli-takeover of Ibrahimi Mosque

February 23, 2010

This week, the Israeli government assigned two more places in the West Bank “Israeli Heritage Sites”—the Ibrihimi Mosque (or Cave of the Patriarchs, a mosque that Abraham built and is buried in along with his wife Sarah) in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem.

 This is a provocative move from the Palestinian point of view because the sites are in the West Bank, and this action seems to be the Israeli government’s way of claiming these sites for Israel and the Jewish people while denying the Muslim connection to the sites.

 Israeli PM Netanyahu reiterates that this is a way to prove the “Jewish” connection to the land—a point Israel has been trying to prove since its establishment in 1948.

 The sites will now be much more difficult, if not impossible, for Palestinians to access.

 After the announcement and Israeli take-over of the Ibrihimi Mosque, about 100 Hebron youths clashed with Israeli police and military in the streets. They burned tires and threw stones, while getting shot at with teargas, rubber coated steel bullets, and soundbombs.

 Many Hebron shopkeepers closed their shops and declared a general strike in protest of the Israeli action.

 This move by the Israeli government comes at a very sensitive time. Within the next week are three important anniversaries: the Prophet Muhammed’s birthday, the Intifada, and the massacre of around 20 Palestinians by Israeli military while they were praying in the Ibrihimi Mosque.

 These anniversaries make this a very tense and politically and religiously charged time in the West Bank. Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas has already called on the Palestinians in the West Bank to start a new Intifada.

 This mosque-takeover could be the spark that ignites the Palestinians, but of course the Israeli government already knows that….

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How Surrendering Palestinian Rights Became the Language of Peace

February 4, 2010
Joseph MassadElectronic Intifada

The 1993 Oslo agreement did not only usher in a new era of Palestinian-Israeli relations but has had a much more lasting effect in transforming the very language through which these relations have been governed internationally and the way the Palestinian leadership viewed them.

Not only was the Palestinian vocabulary of liberation, end of colonialism, resistance, fighting racism, ending Israeli violence and theft of the land, independence, the right of return, justice and international law supplanted by new terms like negotiations, agreements, compromise, pragmatism, security assurances, moderation and recognition, all of which had been part of Israel’s vocabulary before Oslo and remain so, but also Oslo instituted itself as the language of peace that ipso facto delegitimizes any attempt to resist it as one that supports war, and dismisses all opponents of its surrender of Palestinian rights as opponents of peace.

Making the language of surrender of rights the language of peace has also been part of Israel’s strategy before and after Oslo, and is also the language of US imperial power, in which Arabs and Muslims were instructed by US President Barack Obama in his speech in Cairo last June.

Thus the transformation that Oslo brought about was not only a transformation of language as such, but also of the Palestinian language and perspective through which the nature of Palestinian-Israeli relations were viewed by the Palestinian leadership, and that institutionalized instead the Israeli perspective and Israel’s vocabulary as neutral and objective. What Oslo aimed to do, therefore, was change the very goal of Palestinian politics from national independence from Israeli colonialism and occupation to one where Palestinians become fully dependent for their political and national survival on Israel and its sponsors in the interest of peace and security for their occupiers.

The key transformative formula of the Oslo agreement enshrined in the Declaration of Principles of 13 September 1993 is “Land for Peace.” This detrimental formula to internationally-recognized Palestinian rights remains the guiding and delimiting approach of all subsequent agreements — and disagreements — between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and successive Israeli governments.

This formula alone prejudices the entire process by presupposing that Israel has “land” which it would be willing to give to the “Arabs,” and that the “Arabs” — seen as responsible for the state of war with Israel — can grant Israel the peace for which it has longed for decades. Placing the responsibility of the Arab-Israeli wars on the “Arabs” is a standard view that is never questioned in the Western media or by Western governments. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) concession, however, has finally ensured that official Palestinians and other official Arabs, too, will not question it.

Despite its surface appearance as a political compromise, this formula is in fact a reflection of the racial views characterizing (European Jewish) Israelis and Palestinian and other Arabs. Whereas the Israelis are asked and are ostensibly (presented as) willing to negotiate about property, the recognized (Western) bourgeois right par excellence, Palestinians and other Arabs are asked to give up violence — or more precisely “their” violent means — as illegitimate and attributable only to uncivilized barbarians.

The fact that Palestinians have already given up their rightful claim to 77 percent of Palestine and were negotiating about their future sovereignty over a mere 23 percent of their homeland did not qualify for a formula of “land for land” on which to base the “peace process.” In fact, the objective formula for any negotiations would be a “land for peace” formula whereby it is Palestinians who are giving up their rights to their historic homeland in exchange for an end to Israeli oppression of — and colonial violence against — their people.

The PLO, Israel and the Western media hailed the Oslo agreement as “mutual recognition.” This, however, contradicts the actual words uttered by both parties, and the projected actions based on these words. Whereas the PLO (which wrote the first letter) recognized “the right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security,” the Israeli government, “in response” to Yasser Arafat’s letter, “has decided to recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and commence negotiations with the PLO within the Middle East peace process.”

But this is not mutual recognition, as the Israelis did not recognize the Palestinian people’s right to exist in a state of their own in peace and security as the PLO had done vis-a-vis Israel. Had the PLO only recognized the Rabin government as the representative of the Israeli people, without necessarily granting any “right” to the Israeli state to exist in peace and security, then the PLO’s recognition would have been on a par with Israel’s. The actual agreement, therefore, did not amount to mutual recognition; rather, it amounted to the legitimation of the Jewish state by the very people against whom its racist colonial policies have been — and continue to be — practiced, with the Israelis committing to nothing substantively new.

Granting the PLO recognition as the representative of the Palestinians (something the majority of the world — except the US — had recognized since the mid-1970s) committed Israel to no concessions to the Palestinian people. It committed Israel only to a scenario whereby since the Israeli government was inclined to speak to “representatives” of the Palestinians, it would talk to the PLO, as it now recognized that party as their representative, whereas before it did not. This is precisely why successive Israeli governments and leaders have vacillated on whether they would grant the Palestinians the right to establish an independent state and always refer back to Oslo and subsequent agreements in which they made no such pledge.

Having exacted a precious recognition of their legitimacy from their victims, the Israelis moved forward through the mechanism of the Oslo peace process to divide the Palestinians into different groupings, the majority of whom would be expelled outside the peace process. By transforming the PLO, which represented all Palestinians in the Diaspora and in Israel and the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, into the Palestinian Authority (PA) which could only hope to represent Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, constituting one third of the Palestinian people, the Oslo agreements engineered a major demographic reduction of the Palestinian people, dividing them by a factor of three while bringing about a major demographic expansion of the Jewish population of Israel, multiplying their number by a factor of three.

The insidious part of this process is how the PA, conscious of this transformation, continues to speak of the “Palestinian people,” which had been reduced through the Oslo accords to those West Bank and Gaza Palestinians it now claims to represent. Diaspora Palestinians are simply referred to, in accordance with US and Israeli parlance, as “refugees,” and Israeli Palestinians are referred to by Israeli diktat as “Israeli Arabs.” In doing so, not only has the scope of the Palestinian leadership and its representative status of the whole Palestinian people been substantially reduced, but the Palestinian people themselves were diminished demographically by the PA’s appropriation of the designation “Palestinian people” to refer to a mere third of Palestinians.

In the meantime, the Oslo process which produced phantom agreements like the Geneva accords, among others, has pushed forward the Israeli claim that Palestinians must recognize Israel’s right to exist not only in peace and security but also as a Jewish state, meaning a state that is racist by law and discriminates by law and governance against non-Jewish citizens, and one that encompasses not only its Jewish citizens but Jews everywhere. This is something that has been pushed by the Clinton, Bush, and more recently the Obama administrations. Indeed Obama does not miss an opportunity to reiterate his administration’s commitment to force the Palestinians to recognize Israel’s right to be a “Jewish state.”

While Israel has no legitimacy and is not recognized by any international body as a “representative” of Jews worldwide, but rather as the state of the Israeli people, who are citizens of it, the PLO and the PA are called upon to recognize Israel’s jurisdiction over world Jewry. As such, the internationally recognized status of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people has been reduced to one third of Palestinians since Oslo, while the representative status of the Israeli government has been expanded threefold as recognized by the PA’s unofficial representatives in Geneva.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is insistent that no progress will take place in the so-called peace process unless the Palestinians officially recognize Israel’s right to be a racist Jewish state. President Obama has also called on all Arabs to ratify this recognition officially. This has been done despite the fact that the majority of Jews living outside Israel are not Israeli citizens and that no bodies representing them ever endowed the Israeli state with representative powers on their behalf.

Dividing and reducing the Palestinian people demographically has gone hand in hand with the territorial reduction of Palestine, or the parts of it that Israel is willing to negotiate over after redeploying its colonial occupation army around. Aside from the removal of the illegally expanded, occupied and colonized East Jerusalem (now expanded to many times its original size at the expense of West Bank lands) from the territories over which Israel would negotiate its redeployment, the West Bank itself has been subdivided into cantons that exclude Jewish colonial settlements and Jewish-only highways connecting them, as well as imposed nature reserves, military bases and closed areas. But this is not all.

Israel also built the apartheid wall inside Palestinian land, effectively removing another 10 percent of the West Bank from the negotiating table and its army redeployment. Another of the more important measures that the Israeli and Palestinian architects of the Oslo agreement took in order to guarantee the structural survival of the Oslo “peace process” was the creation of structures, institutions and classes that would be directly connected to it, and that can survive the collapse of the Oslo agreement itself while preserving the “process” that the agreement generated.

This guarantee was enshrined in law and upheld by international funding predicated on the continuation of the “Oslo process,” as long as the latter continued to serve Israeli and US interests as well as the interests of the corrupt Palestinian elite that acquiesced in it.

The five main classes that the architects of Oslo created to ensure that the “process” survives are: a political class, divided between those elected to serve the Oslo process, whether to the Legislative Council or the executive branch (essentially the position of president of the PA), and those who are appointed to serve those who are elected, whether in the ministries, or in the presidential office; a policing class, numbering in the tens of thousands, whose function is to defend the Oslo process against all Palestinians who try to undermine it.

It is divided into a number of security and intelligence bodies competing with one another, all vying to prove that they are most adept at neutralizing any threat to the Oslo process. Under Arafat’s authority, members of this class inaugurated their services by shooting and killing 14 Palestinians they deemed enemies of the “process” in Gaza in 1994 — an achievement that earned them the initial respect of the Americans and the Israelis who insisted that the policing class should use more repression to be most effective. Their performance last summer in Jenin of killing Hamas members and unaffiliated bystanders to impress President Obama who asked the Palestinian leadership to keep their security part of the deal is the most recent example of this function.

Also: a bureaucratic class attached to the political class and the policing class and that constitutes an administrative body of tens of thousands who execute the orders of those elected and appointed to serve the “process;” a nongovernmental organization (NGO) class: another bureaucratic and technical class whose finances fully depend on their serving the Oslo process and ensuring its success through planning and services; and, a business class composed of expatriate Palestinian businessmen as well as local businessmen — including especially members of the political, policing and bureaucratic classes — whose income is derived from financial investment in the Oslo process and from profit-making deals that the PA can make possible.

While the NGO class mostly does not receive money from the PA, being the beneficiary of foreign governmental and nongovernmental financial largesse that is structurally connected to the Oslo process, the political policing, and bureaucratic classes receive all their legitimate and illegitimate income from the PA directly.

By linking the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to the Oslo process, the architects had given them a crucial stake in its survivability, even and especially if it failed to produce any political results. For the Palestinian elite that took charge of the PA, the main task all along was to ensure that the Oslo process continues and that the elite remain in control of all the institutions that guarantee the survival of the “process.” What the elite did not anticipate was that they could lose control to Hamas, a public opponent of the Oslo process that in accordance with expectations had boycotted the 1994 gerrymandered and Fatah-controlled elections.

The 2006 elections, which Fatah was confident it would win, constituted an earthquake that could destroy all these structural guarantees and with them the “process” they were designed to protect. Hence the panic of the Americans who engineered the coup with the aid of Israel and PA security under Muhammad Dahlan to topple the Hamas government, which included kidnapping its members of parliament, government ministers and politicians and holding them hostage in Israeli jails, and finally staging a violent takeover of Gaza that backfired. All attempts since the American failed coup in Gaza have focused on perpetuating the peace process through maintenance of its structures under PA control and away from the democratically-elected Hamas.

Indeed, the destruction of Palestinian democracy was a necessary price to pay, insisted Israel and the Americans, pushed forward by the military efforts of Lieutenant General Keith Dayton. This situation became possible because of the funding strategy of the US, Israel and Arab oil-producing states towards the Palestinian struggle. The story of the Palestinian national movement can only be told through the ways and means that different Arab and non-Arab governments have tried to control it.

While the PLO was established and controlled principally by the regime of Gamal Abdel-Nasser, the 1967 defeat weakened that arrangement leading to the revolutionary guerrillas takeover of the organization in 1969. With Fatah and the leftist Palestinian guerrillas at the helm, the revolutionary potential of the PLO constituted such a threat that it precipitated an all-out war in Jordan in 1970, a situation that powerful and repressive Arab regimes did not want to see repeated.

It is in this context that Arab oil money (from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq) began to pour into the coffers of the PLO, primarily to ensure that it would not encourage revolutionary change in Arab countries and that insofar as it did not compromise Arab regime interests its weapons should only be directed towards Israel. The Lebanese civil war and the PLO role in it in the second half of the 1970s remained a problem but, as far as they were concerned, it was a problem that Arab regimes were able to contain.

With the onset of the 1980s and the military defeat of the PLO in 1982 in Beirut, Arab funding for the PLO was no longer conditioned on its not turning its weapons against them only, but that the organization would also no longer target Israel. The various attempts at agreements between the PLO and King Hussein in the mid-1980s were part of that plan. With continued Israeli and US refusal to deal with the PLO no matter how much its policy and ideology had changed, the situation remained frozen until the first Palestinian uprising in 1987 gave the PLO the bargaining opportunity to lay down its weapons against Israel. The formalization of this transformation took place in Algiers in 1988 and later at the Madrid peace conference in 1991.

As oil funding dried up after the Gulf War of 1990-91, the PLO needed new funders. Enter the United States and its allies whose terms did not only include the Oslo agreement but also that the newly created and Fatah-controlled PA be indeed armed but that its weapons should have a new target: the Palestinian people themselves. The PA obliged and continued to receive its funding until the second intifada when, contra their raison d’etre, some of its security forces did engage the Israelis in gunfire when the Israelis attacked Palestinians.

Funding was intermittently stopped, Arafat was placed under house arrest and the Israelis reinvaded. A resumption of steady funding continued after Arafat’s death conditional upon Mahmoud Abbas’s “seriousness” in pointing Palestinian guns at the Palestinians themselves, which he and the PA’s thuggish security apparatuses have done. However, they have not been as effective as the US and Israel had wished, which is why US General Keith Dayton is assuming full control of the military situation on the ground in order to “assist” the Palestinians to deliver their peace part of the bargain to Israel.

Note that throughout the last 16 years, Israeli leaders have consistently said, in line with the formula of land for peace, that they want and seek peace with the Palestinians, but not the establishment of a Palestinian state, nor in order to ensure the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. Indeed, not only has Israel multiplied the number of settlements and more than doubled the Jewish colonial settler population of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, chipping away at more of the land that was said to be under negotiations, it has done so while consistently exacting more Palestinian concessions to ensure Israeli “security” in order for the Palestinians to give Israel the “peace” on which the formula of “land for peace” is based.

The Americans and the Europeans have also insisted that the Palestinians must give Israel peace before it can decide which lands to give them back and under whichever arrangement it finds most ensuring of this “peace.” Therefore, what land for peace — despite or because of its definitional prejudice against the Palestinian people — has brought about is a perpetual deferment of the return of land with insistent demands of advance payments on the peace the Palestinians must deliver.

While the redeployment around Gaza and laying siege to its population, starving and bombarding them, is marketed as Israel’s compromising by returning land, the reality remains that the Gaza Strip has been transformed from a prison policed by the Israelis into a concentration camp guarded and surrounded by them from the outside with infiltration inside as the need arises, as it did last winter.

Ultimately then, what the Oslo agreement and the process it generated have achieved is a foreclosure of any real or imagined future independence of the Palestinian leadership, or even national independence for one third of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who are, at any rate, the only Palestinians that the Oslo agreement claims to want to help achieve it. By mortgaging the Palestinian leadership to US and Israeli sponsorship, by creating and maintaining administrative, legal and financial structures that will ensure this dependence, Oslo has been what it was designed to be from the start: the mechanism of ending the Palestinian quest to end Israeli colonialism and occupation, and the legitimation of Israel’s racist nature by the very people over whom it exercises its colonial and racist dominion. Anyone who questions these strictures can be fought with the ideological weapon of pragmatism.

Opposing Oslo makes one a utopian extremist and rejectionist, while participating in its structure makes one a pragmatist moderate person working for peace. The most effective ideological weapon that Oslo has deployed since 1993 is precisely that anyone who opposes its full surrender of Palestinian national rights is a proponent of war and an opponent of peace. In short, the goal of the Oslo process, which has been reached with much success, is not the establishment of Palestinian independence from Israel’s illegal occupation, but rather to end Palestinian independence as a future goal and as a current reality. Seen from this angle, Oslo continues to be a resounding success.

Joseph Massad teaches modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University. This is the text of a speech he delivered at a conference in Oslo in 2009.

Source: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11034.shtml

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The Kangaroo Dance….

February 1, 2010

The Kangaroo
30/01/10

GEORGE MITCHELL looks like a kangaroo hopping around with an empty pouch.

He hops here and he hops there. Hops to Jerusalem and hops to Ramallah, Damascus, Beirut, Amman (but, God forbid, not to Gaza, because somebody may not like it). Hops, hops, but doesn’t take anything out of his pouch, because the pouch is empty.

So why does he do it? After all, he could stay at home, raise roses or play with his grandchildren.

This compulsive traveling reveals a grain of chutzpah. If he has nothing to offer, why waste the time of politicians and media people? Why burn airplane fuel and damage the environment?

THE DECLARED aim of Mitchell is to “get the peace process going again”. How? “Get the two sides to return to the negotiating table”.

There is a naïve American belief that all the problems of the world could be solved if only the parties would sit down at the table and talk. When reasonable people talk to each other, they will eventually arrive at a solution.

The trouble with this is that the people responsible for the fate of nations are not, in general, reasonable people. They are politicians with passions and prejudices and constituencies, who are driven by the mood of the masses. When one is dealing with a 130-year old conflict, the naïve belief in the value of talk borders on folly.

Decades of experience indicate that negotiations are useless if one of the parties is not interested in an agreement. Worse: negotiations can actually cause damage when one of the parties uses them to waste time while creating a false impression of progress towards peace.

In our conflict, peace negotiations have become a substitute for peace, a means to obstruct peace. They are an instrument used by successive Israeli governments to gain time – time to enlarge the settlements and entrench the occupation.

(In an interview with Haaretz published yesterday, Ehud Barak accused the “left” in general, and Gush Shalom and Peace Now in particular, of not supporting Netanyahu’s call for negotiations. He got close to accusing us of treason.)

Anyone who now proposes negotiations “without prior conditions” is collaborating with the Netanyahu-Barak-Lieberman government in a ploy to sabotage the chances of peace. Indeed, Mitchell has become – perhaps unwittingly – such a collaborator. When he exerts pressure on Mahmoud Abbas “to come back to the negotiating table”, he is playing the game of Netanyahu, who presents himself as the great peace-lover. Abbas is being pictured as a man who has “climbed a high tree and doesn’t know how to get down again”. There is no occupation, no ongoing settlement activity, no Judaization of East Jerusalem. The only problem is to get a ladder. A ladder for Abbas!

All this for what? What is the kangaroo hopping for? It’s all to help Obama, who is thirsting for a political achievement like a man in the desert thirsting for water. The start of negotiations, however meaningless, would be presented as a great diplomatic success.

THE OTHER day, Obama himself made a rare gesture: the President of the United States of America declared publicly that he had made a mistake and apologized for it. He admitted that he had not properly understood the difficulties involved in the restarting of the peace process.

Everybody praised the President. Such a courageous leader! Such nobility!

To which I would add: And such chutzpah!

Here comes the most powerful leader in the world and says: I was wrong. I did not understand. I have failed. For a whole year I have not achieved any progress at all towards a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Look how honest I am! Look how ready I am to admit mistakes!

That is chutzpah. That is chutzpah, because a whole year was lost due to this “mistake”, a whole year in which 1.5 million human beings in Gaza, men, women and children, have been suffering utter destitution, many of them without sufficient food, many of them without shelter in the cold and in rain. A whole year in which more than a hundred Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem were demolished while new Jewish housing projects sprang up at a crazy pace. A whole year in which settlements in the West Bank were enlarged, apartheid roads were built and pogroms, under the “price tag” slogan, were carried out.

So, with all due respect, Mr. President, the word “mistake” hardly suffices.

The Bible says: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Obama covereth not his “mistake”, and that is good. But it is the second half of the verse that counts: “confesseth and forsaketh”. No mercy for one who “confesseth” but not “forsaketh”. You have not hinted with a single word that you are about to forsake your old ways.

It is chutzpah for another reason, too: You say that you have failed because you did not properly appreciate the domestic problems of the two leaders, Netanyahu and Abbas. Netanyahu, you say, has an extreme right-wing coalition, and Abbas has Hamas.

Sorry, sorry, but what about your own “coalition”, which does not allow you to move an inch in the right direction? What about the two houses of Congress, which are completely subservient to the pro-Israel lobbies, both the Jewish and the Christian-Evangelical? What about your fear of your extreme right, which is supporting our own extreme right? What about your inability – or unwillingness – to exercise your leadership, invest political capital in a confrontation with the lobbies and move forwards according to the real interests of the United States (and Israel) – as did President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his time, and even, for a short period, Secretary of State James Baker?

THE TERRIBLE blow dealt to Obama in the Massachusetts by-election has dumbfounded many people. It has changed the texture of American politics and is endangering the health system reforms, the jewel in the crown he has put on his head. It threatens to turn him into a lame duck that may not only lose the midterm elections this year, but even fail to be reelected less than three years from now.

Many ask: what happened to the shining candidate who enchanted the entire United States and mobilized millions of enthusiastic new voters? Where is the man with a vision who aroused the masses with the battle-cry “Yes, We Can”?

How did the inspiring campaigner turn into a so-so president, one who does not excite anyone? How did the candidate, who always hit exactly the right note, turn into a president who is unable to touch the hearts of the people? How did the candidate, who made all the right decisions, turn into a president who cannot make decisions? How did the anti-Bush turn into another-Bush?

It seems to me that the answers lie in one of the fundamental paradoxes of the democratic system. I have thought about this many a time while sitting through boring speeches in the Knesset.

A democratic leader who has a vision and wants to realize it has to pass two tests: to win an election and to govern a country. If he does not get elected, he will not have a chance to realize his dream. If he fails in governing, his election victory loses its meaning.

The trouble is that these two tasks are very different. Indeed, they tend to contradict each other, because they demand very different talents.

The candidate must make speeches, excite the imagination, make promises and convince the voters that he is capable of fulfilling them. These talents can indeed be of help to the ruler – but they do not suffice to enable him to rule. The ruler must make hard decisions, withstand extreme pressures, manage a huge apparatus with many contradictory components, convince the public of his country and the leaders of foreign countries. He cannot satisfy all sectors of the public and all the interest groups, the way he tried to do as a candidate.

The most inspiring candidates often turn out to be disastrous heads of government. They are swept into power by the enthusiasm they evoke in their voters, and then suddenly find out that their brilliant speeches have no impact any more – not on the members of their parliament, not on the public, not on foreign leaders. Their brightest talent has become useless.

I have the impression that Obama’s numerous speeches are starting to tire people and are losing their appeal. When he turns his face from left to right and from right to left, from one teleprompter to the other, he starts to look like a mechanical doll. The millions viewing his speeches on TV see him turning to the left and turning to the right, but never really looking them in the eyes.

The candidate is an actor on stage playing the role of a leader. After the elections, when he actually becomes a leader, he can become helpless. The man who plays Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s play can be a great actor – but if he were Caesar in real life, he would not have a clue what to do. (When I put this to an actor, his retort was: “But Caesar himself would not be able to play Caesar on the stage!”)

Barack Obama is no Caesar. Rather he is Hamlet, Prince of America. Enchanting, attractive, full of good intentions – but feeble and hesitant. To rule or not to rule, that is the question.

IT IS much too early to announce Obama’s political death. Contrary to Mark Antony, who declares in the play “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him”, I am not yet ready to bury the great hope raised by him.

A year has passed since he entered the White House. A year wasted to a large extent. Three more years are left until the next elections. True, in the first year, after such a dramatic victory, it would have been much easier for him to do things than in the following three years, but Obama can still recover, draw the necessary conclusions from the experience and manage a comeback.

One of the roads there leads through Jerusalem. Obama must keep his kangaroo tied up at home and take the initiative into his own hands. He must announce a clear peace program, the one about which there is now a world-wide consensus (Two states for two peoples, a Palestinian state in all the occupied territories with its capital in East Jerusalem and the dismantling of the settlements in Palestinian territory) and call upon the two sides to adopt it in theory and practice – perhaps by a referendum on both sides. When the time is ripe, he may come to Jerusalem and address the Israeli people from the Knesset rostrum with a clear and unequivocal message.

In short: exit Hamlet, enter Julius Caesar.