US aid for Palestinian roads facilitates hateful Israeli system of separate roadways

Posted: 30 Apr 2010 08:24 PM PDT

Great piece of investigative reporting by Nadia Hijab and Jesse Rosenfeld in the Nation showing that many new Palestinian roads in the West Bank paid for by our government (U.S. that is) and other international donors are only serving Israeli settlement expansion by consolidating an Israeli plan for separate roadways. Emphasis mine:

As public works minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh defended the PA’s road rehabilitation and construction: “All these efforts have improved Palestinian infrastructure and fit into the plans of the government,” he said. But, he added, “this work needs a political frame to end the occupation.” (Shtayyeh has since resigned his post.) As for USAID, it insists that the PA is responsible for project selection, while its role is limited to economic and technical assessment and funding.
But research by the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ), the respected Palestinian natural resources institute, reveals some damning facts: 32 percent of the PA roads funded and implemented by USAID neatly fall into a proposal the Israeli Civil Administration (aka the military occupation authority) presented to donors in 2004.
Israel wanted donors to fund some 500 kilometers of alternative roads to serve the Palestinians it was blocking from the main road network (see animated slide here). The donors rejected the proposal at that time, but it now turns out that PA-USAID efforts have effectively implemented 22 percent of Israel’s plan.
When it is pointed out that many of the alternative roads could facilitate settlement expansion, apartheid-style segregation and annexation by taking Palestinians off the main grid–thus working against a Palestinian state–Shtayyeh said, “We don’t look at it this way. The Israelis are stopping people from using these roads, and our job is to find ways for people to survive. This doesn’t mean these roads are permanent structures.”
The Palestine Liberation Organization’s Negotiation Support Unit carefully studied the perils of developing infrastructure under occupation after the International Court of Justice in 2004 reaffirmed the illegality of Israel’s wall in the occupied West Bank.
The NSU prepared a manual with guidance on how to build without becoming complicit in Israeli colonization. Asked whether the PA was aware of the role these roads would play in settler annexation, an NSU staffer, speaking anonymously as he was not authorized to speak to the media, told The Nation, “We have presented our position paper to the prime minister’s office and Mohammad Shtayyeh, and they are well aware of the issue.”
…After donors rejected its 2004 proposal for the alternative road network, Israel began building the roads anyway, later terming them “fabric of life” roads. “Apart from being racist, these roads are wasteful,” said Sarit Michaeli, spokesperson for B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization. “The fabric-of-life roads are meant to solve a problem that in most cases was illegally imposed by Israel.”
In mid-2009 the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that Israeli authorities had paved about forty-nine kilometers of alternative roads, including forty-three tunnels and underpasses, raising not just political but also environmental concerns about the impact of an additional road network on a small area like the West Bank.
OCHA describes the fabric-of-life roads as one of the mechanisms to control Palestinian movement and facilitate that of Israeli settlers. B’Tselem estimates that Israel has spent some $44.5 million on the fabric-of-life road system–a small price to pay to seize vast tracts of land.
“I have a West Bank Palestinian ID, so I can’t go through the checkpoint.” Instead, he takes a bumpy side road that is currently being built by the PA with USAID support. The road turns from choppy cement to residential street to dirt and gravel path, weaving around and under the four-lane Route 60, which is now used mostly by Israeli settlers. Passing through a partly completed tunnel, the car stalls for a second on a steep unpaved incline on the edge of an olive grove.
Nidal Hatim, a local playwright, online columnist and activist with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS), cannot take the main road from Bethlehem to his home village of Battir, just outside the city. Route 60 is the main highway running north-south through the center of the West Bank. “To go on the highway, we have to go through the checkpoint and turn around,” he said.

Which side are you on, J Street?

Posted: 30 Apr 2010 08:00 PM PDT

A couple of news items relating to the self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby J Street over the past few weeks have shown that it’s siding with the wrong people if it is honestly interested in a just and lasting solution to the situation in Israel/Palestine.
On one hand, you have Jeremy Ben-Ami, the executive director of J Street, taking down Alan Dershowitz in a running debate on the Huffington Post. But actions speak louder than words, and J Street’s actions have aligned the group with right-wing apologists for Israel.
J Street allied itself with the Anti-Defamation League, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and Israel’s consul general in San Francisco to successfully beat back the UC Berkeley resolution calling for divestment from companies that supply weapons to Israel for use in the occupied territories. J Street’s support of that effort was harshly criticized by some Israeli activists, who said the lobby group was “trying to gain political capital at the expense of dedicated peace activists.”
J Street is deeply concerned about preserving Israel’s “Jewish and democratic” character. But by supporting the likes of AIPAC in opposing the efforts of boycott, divestment and sanctions activists, it’s actually making the two-state solution obsolete.
If Israel doesn’t suffer any consequences for its colonization—something that AIPAC and the rest of the Israel lobby have been very successful at ensuring—then it is on a path to “national suicide,” as John Mearsheimer put it. What’s J Street going to say when nobody can deny that Israel is an apartheid state? Will it continue to ally itself with AIPAC, or will it be on the side of justice?
In a April 25th interview with Haaretz (h/t to Richard Silverstein), Ben-Ami expressed “deep respect for AIPAC and what they’ve accomplished. It’s hard not to be impressed over what they have done over many decades to establish such a deep US-Israel relationship.” Take that in. Is Ben-Ami really saying that he has deep respect for AIPAC muzzling open debate in the United States about Israel, ensuring that billions of dollars keep flowing to Israel with no strings attached, even when war crimes are committed?
After being left out in the cold by the Netanyahu government, it seems like J Street is being brought in. Its officials met with Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren recently, and are now being recruited by the Netanyahu administration for the “front against Iran,” according to an Israeli media report that Didi Remez posted.
All of these news items cut to the core of J Street’s problem: how can you be “pro-Israel” and “pro-peace” at a time when supporting Israel means supporting colonization, racism, and war crimes?
How will history view J Street 20 years from now? The group has to choose between being AIPAC-lite, in effect a supporter of apartheid, or a group dedicated to justice. I urge the organization to pick justice.

Freeman: Israel is useless to US power projection

Posted: 30 Apr 2010 06:32 PM PDT

The other day Stephen Maher published a piece on Electronic Intifada saying that American thirst for hegemony in the region, and not the Israel lobby, is the prime motivator of US policy in Israel and Palestine. What follows is an excerpt of a private email exchange responding to Maher’s post, reprinted by permission of the author, Chas Freeman, a former assistant secretary of defense. 
Maher’s account is far from novel on any score but he is describing Japan’s, the UK’s, or Qatar’s role in US strategy, not Israel’s. A few facts to ponder when considering his assertion that Israel is a huge and essential asset for US global and regional strategy: 
— the US has no bases or troop presence in Israel and stores only minimal military supplies in the country (and these under terms that allow these supplies to be used essentially at will by the IDF). 
— Israeli bases are not available for US use.
— none of Israel’s neighbors will facilitate overflight for military aircraft transiting Israeli territory, let alone taking off from there. Israel is useless for purposes of strategic logistics or power projection.
— Israel is worse than irrelevant to the defense of Middle Eastern energy supplies; the US relationship with Israel has jeopardized these supplies (as in 1973), not contributed to securing them.
— US relations with Israel do not bolster US prestige in Middle Eastern oil-producing countries or assist the US to “dominate” them, they complicate and weaken US influence; they have at times resulted in the suspension of US relations with such countries. 
— Israel does not have the diplomatic prestige or capacity to marshal support for US interests or policies globally or in its own region and does not do so; on the contrary, it requires constant American defense against political condemnation and sanctions by the international community.
— Israel does not fund aid programs in third countries to complement and support US foreign or military policy as other allies and strategic partners do.
Japan provides multiple bases and pays “host nation support” for the US presence (though that presence as well as the fact that Japan is paying for a good deal of it are growing political issues in Japan). The air base in Qatar from which the US directs air operations throughout the region (including in both Iraq and Afghanistan) was built and is maintained at host nation expense.
So too the ground force and naval facilities we use elsewhere in the Gulf. The US is paid for the weapons and military services it provides to its European and Asian allies as well as its Arab strategic partners. Washington has never had to exercise a veto or pay a similar political price to protect any of them from condemnation or sanctions by the international community.
Japan and various Arab countries, as well as European nations, have often paid for US foreign assistance and military programs in third countries or designed their own programs specifically to supplement US activities. 
Washington has made Israel our largest recipient of foreign aid, encouraged private transfers to it through unique tax breaks, transferred huge quantities of weapons and munitions to it gratis, directly and indirectly subsidized the Israeli defense industry, allocated military R&D to Israeli rather than US institutions, offered Israeli armaments manufacturers the same status as US manufacturers for purposes of US defense procurement, etc..
Almost all US vetoes at the United Nations and decisions to boycott international conferences and meetings have been on behalf of Israel. Israel treats its ability to command support from Washington as a major tool of diplomatic influence in third countries; it does not exercise its very limited influence abroad in support of US as opposed to its own objectives.
As others have said with greater indirection than I have here, one must look elsewhere than Israel’s strategic utility to the United States for the explanation of its privileged status in US foreign policy, iniquitous as Maher considers that policy to be. 

More Arizona contradictions, this time from an Is-lobbyist

Posted: 30 Apr 2010 06:27 PM PDT

Writer Peter Beinart worked for AIPAC during the last presidential cycle, doing private events AIPAC refused to allow me to attend. Well he was on Hardball tonight taking the side of Mexican-Americans in Arizona. They are, he said, emblematic of “politically vulnerable minorities historically in our country who get roughed up by abusive government.” Later he said that the immigrants are “human beings reacting the way that we would react” in the same situation.
Does the rubber ever meet the road with this guy? I don’t think he’s said one kind word about the vulnerable minority in Israel/Palestine, has never put himself in the Palestinians’ shoes. I want to say it’s strictly partisan–he’s making hay for the Democrats. But I think it probably goes deeper. He probably looks on Jews/Israelis as a politically vulnerable minority.

The Arab turf at Brookings

Posted: 30 Apr 2010 01:46 PM PDT

Someone passed me an email from the Brookings Institution in Doha, Qatar, hiring for two jobs:

Salaam all, Brookings-Doha, where I’m deputy director, is hiring for two positions, Research Assistant and Communications and Program Assistant. The job descriptions are below. Please pass along to anyone you know who might be interested.

The research job and communications job both include this requirement:

Keeps abreast of literature on the socio-economic and geo-political issues facing the Muslim-majority states and communities, including its relations with the U.S. and other issues as requested…

And fluency in Arabic is “highly prized” or “strongly desired.”
Something I have noticed. Brookings will hire Arab or Muslims to study “democracy” and “Islam/West” relations at Brookings Doha.
The Arabs know the groundrules: as house Arabs they get fancy titles and are called experts who will transform the region. But they learn quickly not to criticize Israel or challenge American hegemony. Consider this breathtaking analysis:

“President Obama’s speech in Cairo was a resounding victory for the power of America’s character. President Obama evoked political truths, social truths and the word of God through Judaism, Christianity and Islam to speak in such a way that ordinary Arabs and Muslims welcomed the speech with open-hearts.”

But leave the important stuff (Israel/Palestine) to neocon wannabes. Ken Pollack, or Martin S. Indyk Vice President and Director, Foreign Policy. Here’s more brilliant analysis, from Indyk: 

What happened to Vice President Biden this week in Jerusalem was egregious but hardly new. Right-wing governments in Israel have regularly embarrassed high-level U.S. officials by making announcements about new settlement activity during or just after their visits. But it usually happens to secretaries of state. It infuriated James Baker, confounded Condoleezza Rice, and appalled Madeleine Albright.

Notice the turf of the Arabs. Tell us what is wrong with your society. Tell us they are primitive and need to be placed under the tutelage of America so we can help bring them into modernity. But please don’t tell us we are in any way responsbile for the mess in the region and certainly don’t tell us about the extremely low regard for American foreign policy. So that was left to Petraeus. Not to a beltway think-tank.

Report: Junior Israel lobbyist eavesdropped on Massad’s class at Columbia

Posted: 30 Apr 2010 10:50 AM PDT

The pursuit of Joseph Massad at Columbia continues. Here’s an excerpt from an investigation by Jared Malsin at Electronic Intifada.

[A] student group at Columbia called Campus Media Watch (CMW), backed by the pro-Israeli media monitor the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), recently violated university regulations while urging students to “report” on allegedly biased utterances by Massad and other professors, according to faculty members and students.
According to documents, news reports and interviews with students and professors… Columbia senior Daniel Hertz falsely claimed this semester to be a registered student in the class “Palestinian and Israeli politics and societies.” Hertz criticized the content of the class on CMW’s website, and urged other students to report on any perceived bias in Massad’s teaching.
Hertz’ father, Eli E. Hertz, is a prominent pro-Israeli businessman and activist, who among other roles, serves as the chairman of CAMERA’s board and sits on the Executive Council of the powerful Washington-based pro-Israel lobby group the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
If the university administration does not take a firm stand in the case, professors and students argue, the incident could hamper freedom of expression in the classroom. The apparent attempt to eavesdrop on Massad’s classroom also coincides with a resolution denouncing the professor introduced in the New York City Council (Res 0050-2010, 3 March 2010).
For Columbia faculty members, the case also raises the specter of a six-year-old dispute concerning Massad, who was granted tenure last year after top Columbia officials rejected claims that he intimidated students in lectures. Massad was branded as an extremist in a film, Columbia Unbecoming, which was produced by another pro-Israeli pressure group, The David Project.
The incident began in January when Hertz began attending Massad’s class without registering, and wrote an anonymous blog post on CMW’s website, under a section titled “class watch” (“CMW Class Watch: Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies,” 21 January 2010).
Hertz founded CMW in the fall of 2009 after completing a summer internship with CAMERA. Hertz also identifies himself as a CAMERA campus fellow.
“Professor Massad initially caught me off guard,” Hertz wrote in his report on the class. “Extremely upbeat and congenial, it did not seem as though he could be someone guilty of delegitimizing the State of Israel, which is a common claim against Professor Massad’s work.”
He goes on to note that the syllabus for the class includes not only the works of Edward Said (The Question of Palestine), Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi (Palestinian identity) and Massad’s own book The Persistence of the Palestinian Question, but also the writings of the founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl, and those of Israeli Jewish critic Shlomo Sand (The Invention of the Jewish People).
“A majority of the listed authors are among Israel’s greatest detractors,” Hertz wrote. “And while many are in fact Israeli, some of them, especially Shlomo Sand, have written pieces that many have considered virulently anti-Semitic.”



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