Mondoweiss Online Newsletter



Egypt working with Israel on Rafah policy

May 28, 2011


and other news from Today in Palestine:

Report: Egypt working with Israel on Rafah policy
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Egypt has explained to Israel that the Rafah crossing will not be used to transfer goods, and restrictions will be imposed on the movement of individuals, Israel radio reported Thursday. According to political sources quoted in the report, Egyptian authorities are aware of the risk that “terrorist elements” could pass through Rafah, the sole non-Israeli entrance point, and Cairo will act accordingly.
What opening Rafah means and doesn’t mean / Yousef Munayyer
27 May — There will undoubtedly be those trying to proclaim that life is on the up and up in Gaza now and that the siege is over. But Gaza and the siege that entraps it is immensely complicated. Ignoring the nuances of this policy and thinking that Gaza is equivalent to a solid black box that just had its lid opened is entirely misleading … What the Opening of Rafah Does Not Mean: The siege is over … By retaining total control over the other crossings, Israel is still able to maintain its siege policy to practically the same exact extent as before the opening of Rafah. Unless Egypt and Palestine completely revamp the Rafah crossing and the infrastructure around it on both sides of the border, this is unlikely to change …Electricity and Water: …Gaza is overwhelmingly dependent on Israel when it comes to electricity … The Blockade: …Israel enforces its illegal naval blockade at the 3-nautical mile mark (most of the fish native to Gaza’s territorial waters are beyond this mark) and when Gaza’s fishermen get too close, they get shot…What the Opening of Rafah Does Mean: The Closing of A Dark Chapter in Egypt’s History

Egypt’s ‘state security’ still blocks Rafah exit from Gaza / Rami Almeghari
EI 26 May —  “My father, may he rest in peace, was an Egyptian, my daughters are Egyptians, my grandchildren are Egyptians, my brothers are Egyptians, I am an Egyptian,” an exasperated Salah Zorob told The Electronic Intifada.. “Please look at these papers — here is a court ruling and Egyptian interior ministry documents, proving my Egyptian nationality. Why have they turned me away seven times in three months now?” Zorob related his story as he rode the bus from Rafah crossing back toward his home in Gaza after his latest failed attempt to enter Egypt. Zorob, 70, was denied access on Sunday.

What does prevent Egypt from opening Rafah until now? / Rami Khries & Mohammad A.
Alresalah 23 May — …Doubts and questions have returned to Palestinians about the intentions of the new rulers of Egypt regarding the Palestinian file and Gaza’s siege, particularly after the signing of the reconciliation agreement. Ayoub Abu Sha‘er, Rafah crossing’s police chief said that the number of Palestinian “Black list”, as considered by Egyptian authorities, – before the revolution — was not to exceed 20 passengers, while the number exceeded these days 60 passengers, there are also some travelers who were allowed to travel before the revolution, but now, they  are banned from this right…. The Egyptian Obstacles against Palestinian travelers is not limited in Rafah crossing, some Palestinians have been recorded as “persona non grata” cases, and they’ve deported from Cairo International Airport after landing, prompting a Palestinian passenger to have an “hysteria attack” after the Egyptian authorities banned him to travel back to his home in Gaza, and deported him to Damascus, where he came from.

EU to extend border assistance mission at Rafah
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 May — The European Union council has adopted a decision extending the EU border assistance mission for the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, until Dec. 2011, officials said Thursday. The mission was launched in 2005 to provide a third-party presence to open the crossing point and to build confidence between Israel and the Palestinians in line with the EU’s institution-building efforts. A statement from the EU said that despite the closure of Rafah following the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, the mission maintained full operational capability and is ready to redeploy at short notice.
Medics: 3 hurt after navy shells fishing boat
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 May — Israel’s navy fired on fishing boats late Thursday, injuring three Palestinians, medics said. The fishermen were transferred to Ash-Shifa hospital for treatment of moderate injuries, medical official Adham Abu Silmiya said.
Video: Gaza fishermen protest naval blockade
26 May — Ashraf Shannon, Press TV, Gaza —  Gazan fishermen held a sit-in at the fishermen pier to protest against Israeli naval blockade. Israel retained military control of Gaza’s territorial waters under the so-called 1993 Oslo Peace Accords and agreed to allow fishing boats to sail into the Mediterranean for up to 20 nautical miles. But in the last 10 years Gaza fishermen have been able to fish only in a narrow stretch of water up to three miles. Gazan fishermen sail within a three-nautical-mile zone most of the time, but despite that they have come under increasing Israeli fire and attacks … Meanwhile Hamas government civil defense forces held maneuvers to prepare to deal with any possible Israeli attack on fishing and international aid boats in Gaza’s territorial waters.
Specialists: 95% of Gaza water is not drinkable
GazaTV 27 May — During a workshop organised by the Mizan centre for Human rights held on Thursday in Gaza,  Palestinian specialists said that 95% of groundwater in the Gaza Strip is not potable. They called on the international community and the and High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention to assume their responsibilities, through pressure on the occupation, to affirm the water rights of the Palestinian people

UNRWA employees end strike
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 May — UNRWA employees in Gaza have reached an agreement with the UN agency to end their strike, union chief Suheil Al-Hindi said Friday. Staff were on strike in protest over the UN agency’s dismissal of some of their colleagues. The agency provides services to Palestinian refugees. UNRWA agreed to appoint an independent judge to review the dismissals, Al-Hindi said.
Land, property, resources theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlers
The largest government-supported extreme right-wing settlement in Jerusalem
Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity 26 May — …Who is behind “Ma’aleh Zeitim”?  The invitation to the inauguration ceremony bears the signature of Ateret Kohanim and settler patron Irving Moskowitz. Their purpose is to implant a settler presence in the whole of East Jerusalem to a degree that will prevent any peaceful solution in the city. The settlement in Ras Al-Amoud is intended to block once and for all the historic plan to establish a corridor from the West Bank to East Jerusalem assuring, amongst other things, access for Muslim pilgrims to the Temple Mount/Haram Al Sharif.  Aryeh King, Irving Moskowitz’s point man, lives in “Maaleh Zeitim”. King is also behind the project to evict Palestinian families from Umm Haroun in Sheikh Jarrah in order to bring more settlers into that neighbourhood.
Study: Settlements worth $18.8 billion
Ynet 27 May — Economic center releases report assessing monetary worth of Jewish homes in West Bank in event state evacuates them. No coincidence report was released following Obama’s call for return to ’67 lines, says manager,7340,L-4074668,00.html
Jewish settlers severely beat elderly Palestinian shepherd in Nablus
NABLUS (WAFA) 26 May — Ghassan Douglas, in charge of settlements file at the Palestinian Authority in the northern part of the West Bank, said Thursday that settlers severely beat an elderly Palestinian Shepherd, 67, in Madama, a village south of Nablus. Douglas said that Hamad al-Kett  was beaten by 12 settlers from the settlement of Yizhar. He was transferred to a hospital in the city of Nablus where they described his condition as critical. Medical  Sources told WAFA that al-Kett was injured deeply in his face and head, hairline fracture in his skull, bruises all over his body and he suffered from bleeding that caused him to lose consciousness. Acting Chairman of Madama Village Council, Eyhab al-kett said that “Hamad was herding his sheep in the southern region of the village, when he was attacked by settlers who tried to take the sheep from him. The old man tried to resist them, so they took advantage of the fact that he was alone and old and brutally assaulted him.”

Israeli forces – incursions, destruction, detention
Israeli soldiers demolish 3 water wells in Hebron
HEBRON (WAFA) 26 May — Israeli Soldiers Thursday demolished three water wells near the Separation Wall, in Idhna, a town west of Hebron, according to Idhna municipality.The wells were used for agricultural and domestic needs due to water shortage in town. Jamal Tameezi, mayor of Idhna condemned the continuous demolition of wells in Idhna, saying that these measures target agricultural lands in an attempt to confiscate them.

Israel arrests 8, searches homes and school
HEBRON (WAFA) 26 May — Israeli forces Thursday raided several villages in Hebron area, arrested five and set up several checkpoints at village entrances, said security sources. Sources told WAFA that soldiers arrested two Palestinians from Idhna, one from Surif, and another from Beit ‘Awwa, all in the Hebron area. Soldiers also arrested a 15-year- old Palestinian boy from Al-Samu‘, a village south of Hebron, holding him as hostage until his brother, who apparently is wanted by the army, turns himself in. However, both brothers were released within several hours of their arrest. Meanwhile, soldiers raided the towns of Surif and Beit Ummar, searched several houses, in addition to Beit ‘Awwa’s middle school. The army set up several checkpoints at the entrances of Yatta, Al Samu‘, Sa‘ir, al-Nabi Younis and al-Fawwar refugee camp. In the Ramallah area, soldiers arrested seven Palestinians after raiding and searching their home, said security sources.

Palestinian seized in army raid on Bethlehem village
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 May — Israeli forces detained a young man Friday east of Bethlehem, relatives said. His brother said 10 army vehicles raided Al-Obeidiyeh village at 3:30 a.m. and detained Ahmad Al-Asa, 24. An army spokeswoman confirmed that one person was arrested in Al-Obeidiyeh. Two other Palestinians were seized in separate raids east of Bethlehem and in Ramallah, she added. Also Friday, the 118-nation Non-Aligned Movement demanded that Israel release a “substantial number” of Palestinian political prisoners as a “positive step” toward peace.
Palestinian held over collision with settler’s car
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 27 May — A Palestinian man said Israeli police detained and threatened him on Wednesday, several days after he was involved in a car accident with a settler. Sharif Azmi Al-Shyoukhi, 21, said police tried to force him to take full responsibility for the accident, which happened Sunday. Al-Shyoukhi said an Israeli settler sped after him, causing the accident. He sustained moderate injuries in the crash. He said Israeli officers detained him for several hours on Wednesday and tried to bribe him, offering to drop the case for 3,000 shekels ($864).
Activism / Solidarity
Israeli army shuts down ‘illegal’ Palestinian protests
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 27 May — Israeli forces shut down anti-wall protests in villages across the West Bank on Friday. The Israeli army says the unarmed weekly protests in Palestinian villages are illegal. Asked why the protests were illegal, an army spokesman said the areas between Israel’s separation wall and villages Ni‘lin and Bil‘in, near Ramallah, were declared “closed military zones” every Friday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m … In Ni‘lin, entering its fourth year of protests, popular committee member Salah Khawaja said that despite Israel’s military campaign against the village, the demonstrations would continue. “We lost five people, 700 have been injured and 150 arrested, many of them children. “But we vow to continue and to bring more people to our strategy of non-violent resistance.
Two injured, six arrested as Israeli troops attack West Bank anti-Wall protests
Ramallah (PNN) 27 May — … One child  was injured in the arm, six arrested, and home caught fire on Friday when Israeli troops attacked the weekly protest in the village of al-Nabi Saleh, central West Bank. Israeli troops attacked the villages and their International and Israeli supporters as they gathered after the midday prayers. Ahmad al-Tamimi, 8, was injured in the arm by a tear gas bomb fired by soldiers. Later troops invaded the village and fired tear gas into people homes. One house owned by Abed al Rahman Tamimi caught fire from a tear gas bomb, residents managed to put out the fire; the house sustained damage but the family escaped unharmed.
Meeting senseless aggression face to face / Gershon Baskin
JPost 23 May — A recent trip to the weekly demonstration in Nabi Saleh shed a new light on the IDF and its operations — For months I have been hearing about disproportionate use of force by the army against weekly demonstrations in Nabi Saleh – a small pastoral Palestinian village northwest of Ramallah. Last week, I watched several YouTube videos filmed by activists in the village, providing vivid visual images of the forceful arrests of protesters by the army. I was disturbed because all of the clips showed how the demonstrations ended; none showed how they began. I was convinced that there must have been stone-throwing by the shabab in the village which provoked the violent army responses. So I decided I had to see for myself … As someone who served in the army and was involved for years in the education of officers, I was amazed at the abuse of power, the lack of any real purpose, and the pure show of force for force’s sake demonstrated by our soldiers.
Video: Israel to be sued over Nakba Day protest killings
GazaTV (Press TV video) 27 May — Almost two weeks after the Nakba day protests, the families of victims of Israel’s recent violence have decided to file lawsuits against the Israeli Army for firing at unarmed civilians. Several lawyers and legal experts have announced that they will file the lawsuits on behalf of the families of those who were wounded or killed by Israeli gunfire.

Corrie lawyers expose army smear campaign against ISM / Charlotte Silver
EI 26 May — Israeli army spokesperson Brigadier General Ruth Yaron testified this week in what was expected to be the final hearing of the Rachel Corrie trial, now in its fifteenth month of oral testimonies. But once again, the conclusion of the oral testimonies has been pushed back and the Corrie family continues to wait for a final decision … Under examination was a report Yaron had written and submitted to the court on the activities of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), with which Corrie had been volunteering in Gaza. In the report, Yaron maligns the work of the ISM by arguing that there is a significant disparity between how the organization presents itself and its actual practice. Yaron argues that the ISM misrepresents itself as dedicated to nonviolent direct action, but in reality participates in and supports violence directed at the State of Israel.

Very short video: ‘Tear down that wall!’
0:37 Protesters envision the fall of Israel’s apartheid wall outside AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. Move Over AIPAC, 5/22/11
Solidarity campaign happy Cameron leaving Jewish National Fund
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 May — The Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the United Kingdom on Friday welcomed British Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to step down as patron of Jewish National Fund. “This is a welcome development, and reflects the fact that it is now impossible for any serious party leader to lend their public support to racism,” said campaign director Sarah Colborne.
Palestinian ambassador: Border marches part of resistance
BEIRUT (Daily Star) 27 May —  Palestine’s ambassador to Lebanon said Palestinian refugees could march to the borders with Israel more frequently to emphasize the right of return, while stressing that the action was part of a wider peaceful resistance taking place in the occupied Palestinian territories. “This [march] is not a continuous battle [on the border] – it is backed by peaceful popular resistance, which is taking place in the [occupied] Palestinian territories … in rejection of Israeli occupation,” Ambassador Abdullah Abdullah said
Political / Diplomatic / International news
G8 leaders omit mention of 1967 borders in Middle East statement
Haaretz 27 May — Group of Eight leaders had to soften a statement urging Israel and the Palestinians to return to negotiations because Canada objected to a specific mention of 1967 borders, diplomats said on Friday. Canada’s right-leaning Conservative government has adopted a staunchly pro-Israel position in international negotiations since coming to power in 2006, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying Canada will back Israel whatever the cost. [G8 comprises the eight leading ‘market-economies’ in the world.]
Prominent Israeli figures urge Europe to recognize Palestinian state
Haaretz 27 May — Leftist group Solidarity sends letter to EU leaders signed by former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, Nobel Laureate Professor Daniel Kahneman and more, saying ‘peace process has reached its end.’

Abbas to push Palestinian unity government to accept Quartet demands
Haaretz 27 May — Sources close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that he will seek to form a government of technocrats by mid-June which will accept the demands of the Quartet, including recognition of Israel. The sources said that Abbas also appears determined to see Salam Fayyad appointed as prime minister on the unity government, despite widespread objection, as he believes that without Fayyad, the international criticism he has received because of the reconciliation agreement with Hamas cannot be countered.
Shaath: New government in ten days
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 May — Senior Fatah official Nabil Sha‘ath said Sunday that a transitional government would be formed within 10 days … The transitional government will be formed within 10 days and will begin work reconstructing Gaza immediately, Sha‘ath said, adding that Fatah was determined to maintain national unity. President Mahmoud Abbas will visit the coastal enclave as soon as the new administration is in place, the Fatah central committee member added.
Dweik rejects formation of government before reactivation of the PLC
RAMALLAH, (PIC) 27 May — The Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Dr. Aziz Dweik, rejected the notion of forming the government before the reactivation of the PLC so that the new government can be presented to it for approval, saying that he received information that the PLC will be reactivated after the government is formed. Dweik told the Hamas Information Office in Gaza that the reactivation of the PLC was still on hold and “we should not be calling for democracy through undemocratic means or call for participation of all by isolating some or call for implementing law in an unlawful manner, the matter is very lamentable.”
West Bank land won’t give Israel security: Jordan
Reuters 27 May — AMMAN – Israel will not gain security by holding on to territory beyond what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called its “indefensible” 1967 West Bank border, Jordan’s foreign minister said … “I have serious reservations about the Israeli prime minister saying these lines are indefensible and we cannot go back to them,” Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told Reuters in an interview in the Jordanian capital Amman. “It is peace that will bring Israel security …, not increasing the width of Israel or finding a military solution to defending the borders of Israel.”
Israel denies helping Ofer brothers in Iran dealings case
Haaretz 27 May — The Israeli Foreign Ministry said yesterday it was not helping Ofer Brothers Group get its name off the Americans’ blacklist for alleged dealings with Iran, as the firm had led the media to believe. On Tuesday the U.S. State Department shocked the Israeli business community with its announcement that the Ofer Brothers shipping company had violated economic sanctions against Iran.

Other news
CCR launches case seeking US knowledge of and role in deadly Israeli attack on humanitarian flotilla
Center for Constitutional Rights 24 May — U.S. Victim’s Father Hopes Documents May Shed Light on Son’s Killing … The federal lawsuit, Center for Constitutional Rights v. Department of Defense, et al. was filed in the Southern District of New York against the Defense Department as well as numerous other federal departments, including Justice and State, and various components of the U.S. military. The initial FOIA requests were filed nearly 11 months ago: only two agencies responded, and their responses were wholly inadequate, according to the suit.
Bus crash victim: Palestinian who visited Israeli friends / Amira Hass
Haaretz 27 May — The sole victim of Tuesday’s collision between an Egged bus and a truck has been named as Anas Maloul, 25, from the village of Salat al-Dahr northwest of Nablus. He was buried in his village yesterday. Maloul, who lived in Ramallah, was on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem bus Tuesday morning as he returned from a rare visit to Tel Aviv and Jaffa. He spent his last day with his friend Noam Bahat, an Israeli conscientious objector who had spent two years in prison for refusing to serve in an occupying army. Maloul met Bahat when he went on scholarship to study at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. They shared a flat and became close friends.

COGAT launches course on operating in urban centers
JPost 27 May — With the possibility of a Palestinian uprising looming ahead of the PA’s planned unilateral declaration of statehood in September, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) launched a course this week aimed at preparing senior IDF officers and government officials for future military operations in urban centers. Overseen by the COGAT Instructional School, the month-long course takes participants to Israel’s various fronts from the Gaza Strip and Egyptian border in the south to the Syrian border in the north.
Soccer / Sweet and sour
Haaretz 27 May — Salim Toama, Hapoel Tel Aviv’s beloved hero and winning goal scorer in Wednesday’s State Cup final, says when he was abroad he missed Israel, racism and all

IDF recruits Congolese to enforce occupation, do Israel’s dirty work / Richard Silverstein
Tikun Olam 26 May — [This article is really a reach, since the twins arrived in Israel at age 4, but it’s interesting. Wonder how they feel about racism in the IDF] …Not to be outdone by Muammar Qaddafi’s mercenary African army, the IDF too recruits Africans to put the screws to West Bank Palestinians.  Two Congolese twins enlisted in the IDF and were assigned to the Kfir brigade, whose mission is to patrol the West Bank.  Kfir is known as one of the most brutal of IDF units because it operates the checkpoints, performs the late night searches, and generally does the dirtiest work of Occupation … I wonder whether after beating a Palestinian boy, or speaking harshly to a Palestinian grandmother any hint of the savage irony of their situation will creep into their consciousness.  These boys were plucked from the chaos of the Congo and brought to a different and better life in Israel.  All well and good.  But what does the State do to them (an enterprise they participate in gratefully)?  It turns them into the same sort of brutal soldiers who forced their family into exile in the Congo in the first place.
Israel preparing itself for Twitter war over Palestinian state
Haaretz 25 May — Foreign Ministry bracing for a flood of pro-Palestinian tweets ahead of the UN session on a Palestinian state …”We are intensively preparing ahead of September,” says Chaim Shacham, head of the information and Internet department at the Foreign Ministry. Think of him as the Israeli government’s tweeter …  Preparation involves constantly monitoring the blogs, tweets and insofar as possible, Facebook entries too, though many posts are closed to the general public …TheMarker: When you find a tweet, Facebook status or post against Israel, what do you do? Palmor: “We have formulated some arguments that are relevant to what’s going to happen in September, even if we don’t know exactly what it will be. We began disseminating these arguments and statements, backed by links to documents and articles, among the relevant bloggers and social media members..

Facebook’s Mid-East traffic in April: Egypt, Pakistan make gains, Saudi Arabia loses users
InsideFacebook 18 May — Having received credit rightly or wrongly for democratic protests across the Middle East in recent months, Facebook is continuing to make big traffic gains in the region — a trend that had begunbefore any of the recent protests. But this month it also has lost thousands if not hundreds of thousands of users in some key countries.
Analysis / Opinion / Reviews
Friends without benefits / Matthew Iglesias
Prospect 26 May — The U.S. is Israel’s BFF, but the feeling isn’t mutual —  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a lot of things in his address to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, most of them foolish and some of them offensive. But one of his very first statements was among the most important: “Israel has no better friend than America,” he claimed, “and America has no better friend than Israel.” The former is accurate. The latter is absurd. Protecting Israel is a special project taken on by the United States. The reasons may be good and bad, but it’s a burden we undertake. Israel does us no favors and is no use to us. Recognizing that fact hardly solves the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict, but it ought to be the starting point for what Americans should debate–not Israel’s policy toward its Palestinian subjects but America’s policy toward Israel.

Egypt pulls the plug on a failed US-Israeli Gaza strategy / Tony Karon
TIME 26 May — It might have been easy, amid the raucous cheering at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Capitol Hill pep rally on Tuesday, for Israelis to ignore President Obama’s earlier warning of a gathering storm on Israel’s horizon. But Wednesday’s announcement that Egypt plans, on Saturday, to effectively end the siege of Gaza by permanently opening the Rafah border crossing brought home the harsh truth of Israel’s increasingly isolated position … the siege strategy had failed long before this week. Its purpose had been not simply to prevent arms from entering the territory, but to topple Hamas. And it effectively achieved neither.
Can Obama beat the Israel lobby? / Henry Siegman
The Nation 25 May — The outline of such an initiative was presented to President Obama in several letters by former senior officials, including Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, William Fallon, Chuck Hagel, Lee Hamilton, Carla Hills, Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, Thomas Pickering, Brent Scowcroft, James Wolfensohn and Paul Volcker. They proposed that negotiations take place within the following parameters:,1
A Palestinian revolt in the making? / Jesse Rosenfeld & Joseph Dana
The Nation 26 May — …The May 15 demonstrations reinvigorated the long-alienated Palestinian refugee community; although it is 70 percent of the Palestinian population, it has been largely shut out of the negotiations process with Israel. The emerging unity was on display at Qalandia, where youth trying to symbolically march from Ramallah to Jerusalem wore black T-shirts with the slogan “Direct Elections for the Palestine National Council, a Vote for Every Palestinian, Everywhere.” … While the region in revolt was the immediate impetus for change in the Palestinian movement, the issues being addressed and the solutions now demanded on the street have long been seen as necessary to break the current Israeli-Palestinian impasse.
Book reviews — Palestinians in Israel: There may be trouble ahead
The Economist 26 May — The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel. By Ilan Pappé.Israel’s Palestinians: The Conflict Within. By Ilan Peleg and Dov Waxman. The 160,000 Palestinians who survived the 1948 war and stayed in what became Israel in order to remain close to their ancestral homes now number 1.3m. Long marginalised as a rather stranded little community, they have seldom received much international attention compared with the 4.1m Palestinians who live in the occupied territories. Now two books about them have appeared simultaneously, complementing one another. The first, by Ilan Pappé, is an authoritative history of the group’s 60 years or so of existence; the second, by Ilan Peleg and Dov Waxman, is an analytical study that includes radical proposals for turning Israel into a state for all its citizens while still preserving its special Jewish identity.
Is the Arab Spring spreading to US congressional staffs? / Franklin Lamb
Intifada 27 May — “Everyone knows that Members of Congress are regularly pressured and targeted by AIPAC. You should know that dozens of staffers have been fired from their jobs on the Hill during the 15 years I have been here.” … This longtime observer of Congress and former staffer has been somewhat pleasantly surprised by the strong reaction of some Congressional aides to last week’s events on the Hill and the rapid changes happening across the Middle East … Many House and Senate staffers identify with those of similar age who have taken to the streets across the Middle East, who are thought of as courageous, smart and reasonable. They also understand that the Arab Awakening of 2011 is an historic game changer and they are often deeply sympathetic and supportive … “Here is how Bibi got his ‘spontaneous’ applause”, one and then the other explained … “Key Members … were designated as floor leaders and were seated in strategic locations in the Chamber. Once Bibi began his speech the floor leaders would leap up at the indicated cue phases and begin to applaud enthusiastically. Quite naturally, others would follow either not wanting to appear impolite or to stand out and be noticed as not showing proper support for Israel and its Prime Minister. In addition, AIPAC staffers, who prowl congressional offices daily, let it be known that videos of the Members listening to Bibi would be kept on file and insinuated that how the Member’s performed during his speech to Congress would be taken into consideration when planning this summer’s Jewish fundraising events.” (archives) (listserv)

NY LGBT center opens up to apartheid group after all; porn magnate who muscled the center calls it ‘anti-Israel nest’

May 28, 2011

Philip Weiss

From Cahokian, a gay New York site: The latest developments on the initially-successful effort (back in February) by porn king Michael Lucas, who is said to be an American-Israeli citizen, to block by financial-muscle a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from meeting at a LGBT center in New York. Apparently the center is now opening itself to the group after all. And Lucas is steamed. (h/t Ian Horst):

Just in the nick of time the Lesbian & Gay Center issued a statement [on May 25] that must be seen as at least a partial victory: “The Center recently received a request for space rental by a group called “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid” for the purposes of holding recurring meetings to plan for local Pride events. This afternoon we informed the group that the Center would allow access for these meetings.”The statement goes on to say that since QAIA is an “LGBT group” unlike Siegebusters, they would be granted space, provided that they sign a new “Space Use Pledge of Non Discrimination.” That statement has what’s no doubt meant to be a “gotcha” clause in it (“We recognize that respecting individual dignity, achieving equality and promoting intergroup harmony are the responsibilities of all people, including our group. We reject hatred and will not engage in acts or expressions of hatred directed to any person(s) or group(s). Our group will work in good faith to affirm and abide by these principles in all our activities and affairs.), which I find a little creepily naive or thought-controlly, but not a deal-breaker. The Center states it will be engaging a consulting company to review its policies; who news how that will turn out. So the new good news is that supporters of the Israeli Apartheid state have not, for now at least, succeeded in completely silencing pro-Palestinian activists at the Center. Queers for an Open LGBT Center says pressure must be kept on the Center’s board. 
But now here’s where it gets interesting. The pro-Palestine activists were open in their suggestion that the Center needed to be pressured, and possibly boycotted. But the right-wing porn magnate (a dual US/Israeli citizen) behind the expulsion of Siegebusters issued a remarkable statement[May 25] on these later developments:
“I have a very unfortunate update. The group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid was just granted the ability to have their meetings in the LGBT Center. As I always believed, the LGBT Center of NY is an anti-Israeli nest and we did not put enough pressure on them to stop their efforts to harm the Jewish state. But we have the power to stop them. The LGBT Center receives city, federal, foundation, and private funding. We have to work on reaching the government officials and ask them to cut that funding unless the Center changes its decision. We should also reach out to different organizations and individuals and collect money to take a full page ad in the New York Times Magazine. I know this is not cheap and I myself will generously contribute. I also believe that their support of political activity may jeopardize their ability to maintain tax-free status. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts, input, and suggestions. I do need your help. Best regards,Michael Lucas.”
The statement shows Lucas’s priorities. He’s not advocating discussions with the Center or the community, or even a boycott, he’s talking about getting it shut down or put in legal or financial jeopardy unless it does what he tells it to do. Lucas’s actions are a transparent threat to the entire lesbian and gay community to either enforce a pro-Israel-only policy or face destruction. Lucas is no friend of gay people.

Eliot Spitzer lectures Hanan Ashrawi that Israel has a right to the West Bank but Netanyahu ‘wants nothing more’ than to give it up

May 28, 2011

Philip Weiss

I trust my wife’s instincts completely, and this morning she said to me, “Eliot Spitzer was really awful to that woman last night.” She means his interview with Hanan Ashrawi last night on CNN, seeking “the Palestinian perspective.” I also found it distasteful. Spitzer seems out of control and angry. He repeatedly lectures a Palestinian on her history. Some of the lecture:

Spitzer: “With all due respect, Hamas is a terrorist organization… to its core, it is a terrorist group…. Even Prime Minister Netanyahu… made it very clear in his speech to Congress that Israel would cede territory that it feels it has a legitimate claim to… It wants nothing more than to get rid of those territories….

“Just so the historical record is clear. The territory Israel has right now it has because it was attacked by every surrounding Arab nation. And every person understands that… [we will] never forget the historical record that the Arab nations at every opportunity have attacked and have tried to destroy the state of Israel. So let’s not forget history.”

“I live there,” Ashrawi says.

“I’ve been there often enough,” Spitzer declares.

When Ashrawi says that the Israeli government includes racists and people who support expulsion, he shakes his head. He berates Ashrawi to accept the facts: that Arab armies tried to destroy Israel when it was established, and that Arafat turned down a good offer for a state in 2000-2001.

Before I went to bed, I got out Ussama Makdisi’s great book, Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001, which is about the betrayal of Arabs that U.S. endorsement of Zionism represented. Makdisi is an Arab-American professor. Does every personunderstand the history that Spitzer does? Here are two key historicalpassages:

1. Why did Arabs fight the birth of Israel?

That many Palestinians resisted an unjust partition is certain, and that they also killed in defense of their land is also beyond doubt. Arab nationalist and Muslim Brotherhood volunteers came from Syria, Iraq, and Egypt to defend their brethren. But they could not significantly alter the course of events…

Peering at Palestine through the looking glass of the Holocaust, the West celebrated the birth of Israel as a vindication of its own deep morality; the Arabs recoiled in disgust, but they had little in the way of a joint military plan to prevent partition, let alone to decisively defeat the Zionist forces in Palestine. Arab states reluctantly entered the conflict in May 1948 to prevent the establishment of what they regarded as an illegal and colonial state… The Arabs were humiliated.

2. The 2000-2001 deal:

Barak presented Arafat with a take-it-or-leave-it deal that on the face of it offered, at last, the promise of an independent, demilitarized Palestinian state. But the devil lay in the details, and these were ominous. Israel demanded or expected control of Palestinian airspace, the water aquifers under the West Bank, and the borders of the proposed rump state…Israel would also annex large chunks of the Wet Bank … and it would exercise sovereignty over most of Jerusalem and the bypass roads that crisscross the West Bank…

Barak was demanding nothing more than a formal surrender…

Arafat… felt that the Palestinians had conceded enough and would not consent to this final deal that so egregiously “ended” the conflict on terms so manifestly unjust. Camp David represented a humiliation too far. A furious Clinton turned on Arafat…

This is the Palestinian perspective. If Eliot Spitzer is serious about hearing it, he should open this question up to Ussama Makdisi, a professor at Rice, and others. He should recognize Peter Beinart’s wisdom, that the historical period of the U.S. and American Jews shaping the future of Israel and Palestine is coming to an end, and with it his historical understanding is losing power. And the “terrorist group” that is Hamas is the latest incarnation of Islamist groups that opposed the creation of Israel, that have broad democratic support within Arab polities, and that are now being enfranchised in Egypt. Demonizing these attitudes won’t make them disappear.

The challenge is to resolve the intractability of this conflict by dealing fairly with both sides.

And Spitzer should confront his own bias here: Why does he as a privileged and influential American Jew regard Israel as such a beacon, with a biblical right to the West Bank? Is he still peering at Israel through the lens of the Holocaust? Does he feel unsafe in the United States? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if American Jews with as much power as Spitzer examined their commitment to Zionism and, maybe just maybe, walked away from the idea of Jewish nationalism?

David Horowitz says Jews are ‘the most persecuted people on the face of the earth’

May 28, 2011

Philip Weiss

Daniel Treiman reports at the JTA that David Horowitz says he is not a Zionist.

“I feel totally American – I don’t have an identification with Israel; they are as foreign a country to me as any other foreign county – but Jews are the most persecuted people on the face of the earth, and that’s just the truth,” said Horowitz. “If the Arabs disarm there will be peace, if the Jews disarm there will be a massacre. I’m portrayed as a big Zionist but I’ve never been to Israel. I just know when a country needs to be defended.”

The problem here is ethnocentrism. Who is being persecuted in Israel and Palestine? Zakaria says that millions of Palestinians are serfs. So if you are not a Zionist, you might seek to defuse that volatile situation by ending Jewish hegemony.

So is this all about manipulating US elites to stand by Israel against an ‘existential threat’ (that isn’t)?
May 28, 2011 09:58 am | Annie and Phil Weiss

Haaretz: Israel apparently doing nothing to enforce international sanctions against Iran:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who endlessly preaches the need for firm action against Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear arms, is not lifting a finger to stop Israeli companies and individuals indirectly trading with Iran.

Nor is he acting against international companies and corporations that operate in Iran, while maintaining huge contracts with Israeli companies – including state bodies like the Electric Corporation and Airport Authority

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