What settlement freeze? Colonists in occupied Hebron pour concrete for four buildings

Sep 23, 2010

Philip Weiss

Two days ago I visited the occupied Hebron area with Jeff Halper and Salim Shawamreh of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. I shot this video at Kiryat Arba, a religious settlement on stolen Palestinian lands in the hills outside Hebron.

You can see that the settlement freeze that has supposedly stopped construction of illegal colonies in the West Bank and that is due to expire in three days is being openly flouted. Look closely on the right in this video and toward the beginning you will see a white concrete truck leaving the settlement. Then you will see a crane for pouring concrete arched over forms on the second floors of four new houses. And if you look very closely, about halfway through the video, you will see a concrete truck in the upper middle part of the frame, whose tank is turning. Concrete trucks keep their tanks turning when they’re filled with concrete, so that the mixture won’t start to set up. This truck was getting ready to be unloaded. Another barely-visible truck is delivering yards of concrete.

While at Kiryat Arba, I saw many workers climbing on the scaffolding as they poured these new piers and floors.

The voice in the video is that of Jeff Halper, in the front seat. Shawamreh speaks briefly at the beginning. Halper says that Americans for Peace Now has also been documenting violations of the settlement freeze. I wonder what Obama and Clinton are doing as the Israelis thumb their noses in our face.

A history lesson in Jerusalem

Sep 23, 2010

Philip Weiss 

My wife left Jerusalem two days ago after her first visit here. It meant a lot to me to see this place through her eyes. So what did she think?

She fell in love with Jerusalem and vows to come back here soon. It wasn’t just the antiquity and the architecture, but the spiritual resonance of the place. Jerusalem calls to people whose values are not strictly materialistic. My wife reveled in that. We spent one day in Tel Aviv and she wanted to get out of there quickly. She told me that Jerusalem is in her roster of favorite places in the world, along with Rome, Venice, Mysore, and Antigua Guatemala.

She preferred East Jerusalem to West Jerusalem, and Palestinian life in the Old City to the posh, middle-Europe flavor of West Jerusalem. Of course there is a political component to these feelings; she saw the injustice of the political arrangement here, and she took greater interest in the people whose culture is indigenous. She enjoyed the company of Palestinians and European intellectuals, seekers, and eccentrics who flock to East Jerusalem.

She shocked me by saying she would consider converting to Judaism. I am pretty sure it was notional, but she said that she has never been excited by the Christian theology in which she was raised, she prefers a more ancient wisdom tradition, and that tradition is alive here. She loved the western wall and walking through the Jewish Quarter. There was a political component to this declaration. During a conversation with a Zionist friend, my wife was offended that she doesn’t get to register an opinion about Palestine because she’s not in “the club.” She has a mind to join the club so she can speak out.

The conventional wisdom is that Israel/Palestine is a tough place, and my wife shares it. Everywhere you go you sense hostile feeling, and it all comes to a head along the dividing line. “Jerusalem is haunted and tough,” she said.

I said, “It’s always been tough. It’s a jewel of civilization and three religions are focused on it. It’s always been conquered by one power or another, then occupied and ruled. The Romans, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, the British, the Jordanians, and now it’s Jewish. I don’t know that this will ever change; and frankly [I channeled Jeffrey Goldberg] maybe this occupation is less oppressive than earlier ones.”

My wife said, “Then you’re giving up hope. This problem can be solved. We’ve seen worse problems solved that people thought would never change. South Africa, and slavery and segregation. Women couldn’t vote in our country till 100 years ago. When our country started, it was all for men. Black people didn’t even count as human beings.”

I wonder what she thinks about the two-state solution, I look forward to discussing this when I get home. I have a feeling she’s for one state, because of the understanding that the Old City is the beating heart of this country, and it cannot be divided or monopolized.

In grief-stricken Silwan–contempt for politicians, and talk of a third intifadah

Sep 22, 2010

Philip Weiss

Palestinians rioted this afternoon in Silwan, a village right outside the Old City of Jerusalem, following the killing earlier in the day of a Palestinian man by an armed guard at a Jewish settlement in the occupied neighborhood. Joseph Dana posted pictures of the “revolt” here.

An activist friend in West Jerusalem said that the riots were the start of the third intifadah, and with that sense of moment, I went to Silwan. It was 6 o’clock. Smoke rose from fires in the village center, and heavily armed Israeli forces were mustered at the walls of the Old City, in part to protect Jews who were flocking to the Jewish Quarter to celebrate the start of Sukkot.

I walked down the hill past the City of David settlement, a messianic Jewish colony on occupied land, with a big gold sign in English. I found my way to the Wadi Hilwah Information Center. A man with a limp– shot by a settler guard in both legs, I was later told–walked me back to Jawad Siyan, the director of the office. A thin, intense man of about 35, he vented his despair over Palestinian powerlessness as he fielded telephone calls and a teenager brought me coffee. 

The 55,000 people of the village were “sad and shocked” tonight, Siyan said grimly. Villagers had continually complained to Israeli police that the settlers had taken the law into their own hands; but the complaints were ignored. Armed guards in the settlement– which has been spearheaded by a religious group called Elad– roamed the town freely, with the support of the Israeli border police. They threatened Palestinians with impunity.

The incident today began–Siyan said witnesses had told him– when Palestinians and settlers shouted abuse at one another, as they often do, and the guards had fired guns in the air. The Palestinians had run away. The guards had chased them, and shot at them. Two men were seriously injured. Israeli security forces had arrived within minutes, but Samar Sarchan, 35 years old, lay on the ground for an hour before an ambulance arrived. He later died of his injuries.

“It’s disgusting that Palestinian life is so cheap to the settlers, and to the Israeli police, and to Netanyahu himself, and even [Palestinian Authority president] Abu Mazen,” Siyan said with bitterness. “And we see that to Americans, too, we are a very cheap people.”

Siyan said he was not even reading condemnations of the attacks. He is “bored” by them. The only thing that matters is “banishing the people who make these crimes.” But the settlers won’t be banished. They have the support of the Israeli government, as they seek to turn this Palestinian neighborhood in the shadow of the Al-Aksa mosque into a Jewish one.

Is it the beginning of the third intifadah? I asked. Siyan said that the third intifadah began several months ago. It is rising in villages across Palestine that are affected by Israeli encroachment. This intifadah will not involve attacks in West Jerusalem, it will be like the first intifadah– only it will be met by greater Israeli violence.

I asked Siyan about a political solution to the conflict. He is in utter despair about a political solution. Obama’s Cairo speech sounded good 15 months ago, and “we said, let us be optimistic,” but Siyan and others in Silwan knew that Obama would not change American policy– and he hasn’t. “It is the same movie, the same song.” American leaders have done nothing to address the ongoing dispossession by Israel of Palestinian land. 

“Golda Meir said, ‘No land, no nation. No nation, no land,'” Siyan said. “And today this means that what is Israel is Israel’s, and what is Palestine, they want to share with us. How can we share our land? Can we share Haifa also, and Tel Aviv?”

As for the current negotiations, he knew that they were a failure when official statements said that leaders would discuss the status of the City of David. Well the City of David is a recent messianic settlement on stolen land. Its status is clear. Why should this even be discussed?

I asked Siyan about whether the international solidarity movement gave him any encouragement. More pessimism. Yes it is a good movement, and the boycott movement is good, but– 

“Unfortunately, they are very weak. These people who want change, they are weak. Palestine is not for them a subject that they take to the heart. It’s volunteer work. They do it when they have time. If you want to solve this problem, you have to take it on as a job, not as a hobby.”

Was he so discouraged because of the killing? Would he have said the same thing two days before? He would have felt it, Siyan said, but not said it. The killing has made him blunter.

I walked back up the hill past the evidence you see everywhere in this land of Palestinian powerlessness and Israeli power. Muscular armed guards stood outside the City of David settlement. Two of them were arguing in English about a legal matter– in American accents. At the top of the hill a dozen Israeli armored vehicles lined the road on either side, and soldiers walked about nervously, with semi-automatic rifles in their hands. Some ate their dinner on the hood of a truck. A group of commando-looking soldiers strapped on black bulletproof vests, as if preparing for a raid. 

Siyan had said that Israel could wipe out the village easily, destroy it with rockets and grenades, and the world would condemn Israel for a week and then forget about it. The other option, he said, is that the world would grant Palestinians the only thing they have ever sought, political freedom. Who can blame Palestinians for thinking that day is very far away.  

Will liberal Jews take responsibility for their role in American policy and the suffering of the Palestinian people?

Sep 22, 2010

Rabbi Brian Walt

The following is a Yom Kippur sermon on American Jews and Israel that I gave at Tikkun v’Or in Ithaca New York.

I want to start my sermon with a kavvanah (spiritual intention) of two quotes, one from the Psalms and the other from Arundhati Roy a contemporary Indian writer.

First, Arundhati Roy: “The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it.  And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out.  There is no innocence.  Either way you are accountable.”

The Psalms:

L’maan achai v’reyai adaberah na shalom bach.
L’maan beyt Adonai eloheynu avaksha tov lach.

For the sake of my brothers, my sisters and friends
I will speak of peace.
For the sake of this planet, the House of God, may I seek  goodness and blessing for all.

Ir Amim

During our stay in Israel this year, we took two tours with Ir Amim (City of Nations), a non-profit Israeli organization that educates the public about the reality in Jerusalem.  The first tour was in English and included many people from around the world; the second was in Hebrew and we were the only foreigners.

On both trips, we saw with our own eyes the huge Jewish neighborhoods that have been built since 1967 that encircle East/Arab Jerusalem: from Pisgat Ze’ev in the North to Gilo and Har Homa in the South.  We saw bypass roads for Jews and a special underground road for Palestinians.  We saw the huge Separation Wall.  Most shocking, we saw armed Jewish enclaves in the middle of  Palestinian neighborhoods such as the Ras El Amud, Sheikh Jarrah, Mt. Olives, Jabal Mukabber and others.  These settlers receive full support from the Israeli government.  We drove by the expanding settlement created in Ras El Amud that is sponsored by Irving Moskowitz, an American Jewish millionaire.  The tours were educational, enlightening — and devastating.

After seeing the reality on the ground, the Israelis on the second tour were all very disheartened; a sense of hopelessness and despair was palpable in the bus.  One man was particularly distressed.  “What is the solution?” he demanded of our tour guide. Our guide, who had retired after serving many years as a police officer in Jerusalem, insisted that his task was to show us the reality on the ground, not to suggest a solution.  Agitated, the man  turned to his fellow passengers with the same question.  “What do you  think? What is the solution?”  What emerged was amazing.  They all agreed that the only hope was intervention by the United States and the international community.  To our astonishment, this group of Israelis all agreed that the only possibility for a resolution was if America put pressure on Israel to relinquish the settlements and to make a peace agreement based on territorial compromise.

For us, as American Jews, it was an enlightening moment.  We were close to the end of our stay in Jerusalem and the new American Administration had made the most serious effort yet to do just that, to insist that Israel end all settlement activity. Yet, in response to outrage and massive pressure from the America Jewish community and the Israel lobby, the  Administration had backtracked and agreed to a temporary partial freeze on settlements that will end in eight days’ time.

Biden’s visit

In March, Israel welcomed Vice President Biden’s visit with the announcement of new construction in one of the very settlements we had seen on our trip.  “Jerusalem is not a settlement, it is our capital,” Prime Minister Netanyahu told the cheering crowd at the AIPAC conference, forgetting to point out that close to 40% of the residents of Jerusalem are Palestinian and that, while vast new Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem had been built encircling Arab/East Jerusalem, not one new Palestinian neighborhood had been built and Palestinians are routinely are denied new building permits.

Many of us were so hopeful to see the new Administration push for a complete freeze on settlement activity, the most basic change needed for any serious negotiation.  When the administration backtracked again, it illuminated just how powerful an influence the American Jewish community – our community – has on U.S. policy on Israel.  It is our relationship to Israel as American Jews that I want to explore today.

Peter Beinart

In June, Peter Beinart, the former editor of the New Republic, a magazine with a centrist to right wing perspective on Israel, wrote an article entitled, “The Failure of the Jewish Establishment” in the New York Review of Books that stirred controversy and an important ongoing debate in the Jewish world.

Beinart argued that  “for several decades the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.”

Beinart pointed out  that the mainstream Jewish organizations base their argument for American support for Israel on the idea that Israel is a democracy that shares American values. Then the Jewish establishment ignores or downplays the disturbing long-term anti-democratic trends in Israeli society and silences those in America who speak about them.

Beinart pointed to many indications of this anti-democratic trend in Israeli society. Among them:

* The most extreme right wing government in Israel’s history

* An intolerant settler movement that is growing more radical and more entrenched in the Israeli bureaucracy as well as the army

* An ultra-Orthodox population that is increasing dramatically, and a large Russian immigrant community (Both these communities are particularly prone to anti-Arab racism.)

* A poll that shows that  56% of Jewish Israeli high school students and more than 80% of religious high school students would deny Israeli Arabs (i.e. Palestinian citizens of Israel) the right to be elected to the Knesset

* Another poll that indicates that  53% of Israeli Jews, and 77% of those from the former Soviet Union, support encouraging Israeli Arabs to leave the country.

* A  coordinated public attack led by members of the ruling coalition against Israeli human rights organizations as traitors to Israel

* A shocking insensitivity to Palestinian suffering

The very week last month that Beinart spoke at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center, Israeli bulldozers had just demolished the houses of the villagers in El Farsiya in the Jordan Valley.

This demolition was the second time that Israel had carried out a demolition in this village.  Beinart pointed out that American Jewish leadership would never mention this incident.

Israel has four times destroyed a Bedouin village of El Arakib.  The initial demolition was carried out by a force of hundreds of police officers and soldiers. Just this week, immediately after Rosh Hashana, Israel demolished this village for a fifth time.  Once the villagers are moved from their village, the Jewish National  Fund will plant a forest on the location. Several other Jewish National Fund parks have been built on the ruins of former Palestinian villages in Israel once their inhabitants were expelled.

Beinart pointed out that American Jewish leaders would never address the issue of what happened in El Farsiya or El Arakib and many other villages as a challenge to Israeli democracy.  Worse, they may defend the actions.

Stifling Debate

Leaders of our community go further.  They stifle open debate on any anti-democratic actions by Israel – like  these demolitions — by calling those who raise these issues in America and in Israel “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic.” even though this means calling thousands of American Jews and thousands of Israelis “anti-Semitic.”   They have also launched a concerted public attack on the most respected international human rights organizations: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others, labeling them also anti-Israel.  Beinart argues that this uncritical support for Israel and the stifling of open debate  has led to the distancing of young liberal American Jews from Zionism and Israel.  “Fewer and fewer American Jewish liberals are Zionists, few and fewer American Jewish Zionists are liberal,” he wrote.

Beinart, who is father of two young children and a devoted member of an Orthodox synagogue, focuses on alienation of young liberal Jews from Israel and Zionism.

He is talking about our children and grandchildren and he is talking about us.   Increasingly we, liberal American Jews find ourselves in an agonizing conflict between our loyalty to the Jewish people, our wish to support Israel, and our concern and/or our opposition to the disturbing trends in Israeli society and the policies and  actions of the Israeli government. Liberal Jews are increasingly troubled about Israeli policies and actions.  It is painful, sometimes even unbearable, for us to listen to the stories like the demolition of the two Palestinian villages that I described.   It is very painful for me to talk about them.

The conflict for us is between core values   We believe in human rights, in open debate, in democracy.   They are the very values we hold dear in relation to our own country and every other country in the world.  We criticize our own country’s profound racism, prejudice, inequality, and militarism.  And, we are proud of the role many American Jews played in the civil rights struggle, in the peace movement, as advocates for justice on many issues.

For us, the very core of Judaism is:

pursuit of justice (Justice, justice shall you pursue!),

equal human rights for all (God created Adam/human beings in God’s image)

and the pursuit of peace (Seek Peace and Pursue It!)

How can we uphold these core values of our faith in our own country and everywhere else in the world,  but not in Israel?  How can we turn our eyes and not face the painful reality of the oppression of Palestinians in Israel?  How can we be appropriately vocal about Sudan, China, Burma, Zimbabwe, but silent about Israel? Aren’t we responsible first to deal with injustice for which we are directly responsible?

How do we respond to Israeli attitudes, policies and actions that violate what we believe to be the core tenets of our faith?  Israel claims to act in the name of the entire Jewish people. Is it acting in our name when it demolishes Palestinian villages?  Many of us have enormous grief about what has become of Israel.  If we speak about this publicly. will we be called anti-Semitic by fellow Jews?  And we feel an inner tug of disloyalty to our people when we criticize.


Many liberal Jews – and many rabbis — have been cowed into silence by overwhelming pressure from mainstream Jewish leaders.   Over the past year in addition to calling critics “self hating,” or “Israel-bashing,”  the Jewish establishment has come up with a new term “delegitimation” or “delegitmization”, to silence this criticism .

Just before Rosh Hashana, I saw a glossy brochure for a conference on “War by other means: The Global Campaign to Delegitimize Israel.”  The conference will be held at Boston University in October, sponsored by CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting.

While there are people and groups in the world who want to delegitimize and destroy Israel, CAMERA and other conservative groups use the term “delegitmization”  to cover a broad spectrum of critics of Israeli policy. Rather than focus on global and Jewish concern about Israeli policy that has led to a rise of anti-Semitism in several countries–  including our own — the leaders of Israel and of the American Jewish community want to deflect any legitimate criticism and debate by labeling all efforts to challenge Israeli policy as “delegitimizing Israel.”  It is just the latest strategy to silence the debate.  It is Israel’s illegitimate and immoral policies that lead to the “delegitimization” of Israel.

Change in America

Beinart’s article is significant because it is written by a well- known and well-respected young Jewish intellectual and because it is part of a broader change in the debate about Israel in American society.

Over the past few years, more and more Americans have dared to face the wrath of the powerful Israel lobby by raising these issues in the public realm.  They have been vilified by Jewish leaders, yet they have courageously created an environment where questions that were previously silenced are now part of the debate.  Several books have opened the debate and the Internet has played a major role.  Progressive Israeli and American bloggers tell the story of Palestinian suffering and of anti-democratic actions by Israel on a daily basis.  These reports are painful to read and profoundly disturbing. Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, the attack on the flotilla and other actions by Israel have also shocked many in America.

These bloggers also write daily about the efforts of the American Jewish Community, the Israel lobby and the Israeli government to stifle debate in America and about the lack of reporting on issues relating to Palestinian suffering in the mainstream press.

This change has lead to an increasingly open debate in America about Israel policy: on university campuses, in churches and some synagogues, in the press and on the Internet.   American can no longer hide from this reality, nor should we.

How do we, as liberal Jews, respond to this debate?

Beinart: Two forms of Zionism

In his article Beinart argues that there are two versions of Zionism: There is a Zionism that, in response to persecution of Jews, believes that the entire world is against us and that our only option is to exercise our Jewish solidarity and power.

And there is a liberal, humanistic Zionism that is “gasping for air” in Israel today.  It is a Zionism that understands, in Beinart’s words, that “the best way to memorialize Jewish suffering is through the ethical use of Jewish power.” He believes that it is this form of Zionism that will inspire our children and is worth fighting for.

The young Israelis who protest weekly at Sheikh Jarah, the Jerusalem neighborhood where Jewish settlers have displaced Palestinian residents. give voice to this Zionism as do the many peace and human rights groups in Israel.

Beinart writes: “What if we told the next generation of Jews that it faces a challenge as momentous as any in Jewish history: to save liberal democracy in the only Jewish state on earth?  What if we shared an uncomfortable Zionism, a Zionism angry at what israel risks becoming and in love with what it still could be”?

Beinart’s article is courageous and important to all Jews concerned about Judaism and the future of Jewish values.  Many of us are profoundly concerned about what Israel is becoming and we should all be in love with what it still could be. It is vitally important for us to support courageous Israelis of all kinds who are fighting for a just Israel.  We need to teach our communities about these efforts, take Jews to Israel to meet progressive Israelis and invite them into our communities.  For the Jewish identity of our children, we need to find a way for them to connect to progressive Jewish culture in Israel and to progressive groups that uphold our core beliefs.  We also need to  make sure that when they go to Israel they also see the Palestinian reality and meet Palestinians who are working for peace.  This is the best chance we have to foster a positive and hopeful connection to Israel. This has been the focus of my work for the past three decades and it continues to be one essential part of what we need to do.

Jews and American Policy

And we need to go beyond this.  We live in America and it is as American citizens that we need to act. The United States government provides more aid to Israel than to any other country on earth and yet our government has allowed Israel to settle half a million people on the West Bank and rarely intervenes when Israel engages in egregious discrimination such as the fifth demolition of the village of El Arakib just a few days ago.  Our government always provides diplomatic cover for Israel as it did after Operation Cast Lead and the Flotilla incident.

It is time for turn our moral angst about Israeli policy to ending the suffering of the victims.  It is time for us to address the direct and indirect responsibility that we have as American Jews for the discrimination and suffering of Palestinians.   As the Obama administration pushes Israel, it will face huge resistance from the mainstream Jewish community, the Israeli lobby and many members of Congress.

The House in Silwan

Last year I told the story of standing on the ruins of a  demolished Palestinian home in Silwan and listening to residents talk about their children who had been arrested in the middle of the night for throwing stones at the bulldozers that destroyed the house.  I turned to my colleague in Rabbis for Human Rights and said, “I can’t bear to hear the story anymore, you see many such incidents how do you stand it?  He turned to me and looked me in the eye and said,”How do I stand it?  How do you stand it?  You pay for it!”

He told me that a representative of the American consulate had been present at the demolition, that America apparently didn’t have the power to stop an action of blatant housing discrimination that would horrify most liberal Americans including, maybe especially, liberal American Jews.  Liberal American Jews have played a major role in the struggle to provide equal housing opportunity in America.

Yes, we pay for it and the United States covers for Israeli discrimination and all the injustice that Beinart describes in  his article.  And the leadership of American Jewry, including many rabbis and even some of the leaders of the Reform movement, are vocal advocates ensuring that the U.S. defends Israel when it commits human rights violations. This was clear after Operation Cast Lead, in the vicious vilification of Judge Goldstone and in the response to the attack on the flotilla.   This direct role the U.S. policy has in supporting the Occupation became  clear to me on that visit to Silwan and it became particularly clear during our most recent stay in Israel.

From our vantage point of  living in Jerusalem, I could see the direct effects of American Jews’ support for the policies of the Israeli government.  Every day the Israeli government acts to further settle the West Bank, to dispossess Palestinians from their homes, to steal more Palestinian land, to squeeze them into smaller and smaller pieces of land.  Every day these actions make a peace between the Palestinians and Israelis less likely.   The silence of the American government along with the massive support that America gives to Israel is what makes this all possible.  Without this support Israel could never continue these policies.  At any point, if America were to act on our basic principles and insist that Israel as a democracy stop wholesale ethnic discrimination against Palestinians, it would stop, or at a minimum there would be a profound change.

Those Israelis on our bus were right.  Without American support Israel would not have been able to masively expand settlements: without significant and serious American pressure there is no hope for a solution.  All of it is financed and supported by American government and it is our community, the American Jewish community, that plays a major role in securing the support of the United States and in silencing the debate about American policy in our country.  Israel relies on the American Jewish community and the Israel lobby to maintain the consistent overwhelming and blind support of the U.S. Congress.

As I watched this in Jerusalem, it became clear to me that I needed to act as an American citizen to call on my government to hold Israel accountable.  We liberal Jews have been relatively quiet; some of us have supported Israeli peace groups, but we have not been as active in regard to American foreign policy.  Many liberal Jews even  join in the silencing of dissent in America.  When churches in America discuss taking a position on Israeli policy — as the Presbyterians did this summer — the mainstream Jewish community mobilizes its leaders and rabbis to warn our non-Jewish friends that taking action on Israel will threaten Christian-Jewish relations and that their action is anti Semitic.

As a liberal American Jew, I want to join with other American citizens calling for a more moral and responsible American policy in regard to Israel.   Of course, Israel is entitled to security, our people feel vulnerable and we too have suffered, but our suffering in the past does not give us any right to inflict suffering on another people.  The message of our Torah is the opposite: that our suffering should sensitize us to the suffering of others. I am a supporter of the Israeli peace groups but I now see myself as a American Jew with a responsibility to demand that my government  intervene to uphold the core values of our faith by insisting that Israel end the violation of human rights, end the settlement policy,  and make real commitment to justice for the Palestinians.

For too long have we been vocal about human rights violations everywhere in the world but silent when Palestinian homes are demolished or when Palestinians are thrown out of their homes and replaced by extremist right wing Jewish settlers who are protected fully by the Israeli government, army and police and supported by our money and political support.

How can we hold up one standard in America and another in Israel?   What we believe must happen here in America is what should happen in Israel.  It is not complicated.

American Jews are beginning to take action.

A few years ago, J Street was formed as an alternative to the Israeli lobby.  J Street defines its mission as pro-Israel and pro-peace and supports efforts by the President and the Congress to pressure Israel and the Palestinians toward a two state peace settlement.  It is an organization that  challenges the power the Israel lobby has over Congress and  it works to open debate in the Jewish community.  It supports members of Congress and candidates who are pro-peace.  In February, J Street will be holding a conference and I would encourage those of you who are interested to attend.  I believe there have also been efforts to establish a local chapter here in Ithaca.

Another Jewish organization that has been active in regard to U.S. policy for many years is Jewish Voice for Peace.  While J Street is an explicitly Zionist organization, Jewish Voice for Peace includes Zionists, non-Zionists and anti-Zionists, as well as many non-Jewish Americans.   JVP advocates for peace achieved through justice and full equality for both Palestinians and Israelis.  JVP seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East.  It is a strong and consistent voice calling for a U.S. policy that promotes democracy and human rights.  Again, I believe there is an effort to establish a local chapter of JVP here in Ithaca.

Palestinian civil society has called for a global non-violent movement – B.D.S.: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions to end the Israeli policy of oppression and discrimination against their people.   Many Americans, including many American Jews, are involved in this effort.  We often criticize Palestinians for violent resistance. BDS is a totally nonviolent effort to end oppression.  Going as far back as the Exodus from Egypt, there is no example in human history of a political system where a privileged group gives up its privilege without enormous pressure.  And in Israel, there is no incentive to give it up.  Why would the settlers living in beautiful homes with exquisite views on the West Bank give up this privilege without any pressure to do so (and with full funding from the U.S.)

The B.D.S. movement makes many Jews anxious.  There are many legitimate concerns in our community, especially about the academic or cultural boycott, that must be discussed. I hope that we will have a chance to do so in this community.  The Israeli government and some in the Jewish community have decided to draw a red line, putting anyone who supports B.D.S. beyond the pale.  This is a huge mistake.   While we may oppose specific boycotts like the academic boycott or cultural boycott, many Israelis support a boycott of products produced on the West Bank.   Just this past week, Israeli actors and directors decided to boycott the new publicly funded theater in Ariel on the West Bank.  Their action is supported by 100 American playwrights including Tony Kushner, Cynthia Nixon, and Theodore Bikel.  Does this make Theodore Bikel beyond the pale?  Does it put all the Israeli actors and directors beyond the pale?  This is definitely a profoundly challenging issue but the way to deal with it is not by calling those who advocate B.D.S. traitors.  Enough of name calling. It is time for an open discussion.

And this brings me to our congregation.

We are a diverse congregation with many different relationships to Israel.  Some of us have never even visited Israel.  For some of us, like myself, Israel is a central part of my identity as a Jew.  Some of us have family in Israel.  And all of us feel a special connection to that land. Facing these questions is challenging.

I urge you as individuals and as a community to be concerned “at what Israel risks becoming and in love with what it still could be.”  What happens in Israel affects and will continue to affect all Jews.

There are many different ways to take action.  We don’t all have to do the same thing.

We have started by holding listening circles and we need to continue listening and  learning.  I personally am especially grateful to those members of the congregation who disagree with my position but have been prepared to listen.  I look forward to listening carefully to opposing points of view and to a continued respectful and sometimes difficult conversation.

We need to go beyond just listening.  We also need to take action, whether it be to challenge the the Reform leadership as our Board recently did, to support J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace, Taanit Tzedek, Americans for Peace, Israeli peace or human rights groups to name just a few possibilities.

“You don’t live here, you don’t understand”

We can no longer be silenced by those who say, “What right do you have to criticize Israel, you don’t live there, you don’t have to pay the price for the consequences of your actions”?

Yes, we don’t live there and the citizens of Israel must decide their own future.  Our responsibility is for the role our own government and our own community plays in Israel.

Whether we like it or not, as Americans we are directly involved in Israel.  The question is how we will be involved — as those who uncritically support Israeli policy or those who call on our government to advocate for the same values we support here in America and to support those in Israel who are upholding those values? I trust that this community will be a space of open debate on these issues and a community that will act to promote justice, compassion and equity in America, in Israel and throughout the world.

Lastly, this sermon not really about Zionism or Israel but about Judaism.  What kind of Judaism will we support: a Judaism that is based on universal human values or a Judaism that privileges the rights of Jews above the rights of other people?  Reform Judaism has a proud history of upholding the prophetic vision of Judaism with the core values of justice and compassion for all human beings.  What’s at stake in the issues I have raised this morning is our religious faith and legacy.  The stakes could not be higher.

I want to end with the same kavvanah with which I began:

Arundhati Roy writes: “The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it.  And once you’ve seen it,  keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out.  There is no innocence.  Either way you are accountable.”

We have both seen and heard and we are accountable.

L’maan achai v’reyai adaberah na shalom bach.

L’maan beyt Adonai eloheynu avaksha tov lach.

For the sake of my brothers, my sisters and friends

I will speak of peace

For the sake of this planet, the House of God, may I seek  goodness and blessing to all.

May the Source of Life bless us with the strength to seek peace for all our brothers and sisters, for Israeli Jews and for Palestinians.

For the sake of this planet, the House of God, may we seek goodness and blessing for all.

I wish you and your families a year of blessing and joy.

May we all write and seal ourselves in the book of life, blessing — and peace.

Shana Tova.

On second thought: Abbas signals renewed settlement construction won’t end talks

Sep 22, 2010


* And other news from Today in Palestine:

Land and Property Theft and Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing

Abbas signals renewed settlement construction won’t end talks
Abbas has repeatedly threatened to walk away from peace talks, launched this month in Washington, if Israel resumes building in its West Bank settlements.

Civil Administration hands down stop-work orders
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israel’s Civil Administration handed several stop-work orders to residents in villages in the northern West Bank districts of Qalqiliya and Salfit on Monday.  Several homeowners in the Kafr Thulth village in Qalqiliya received the notices, including the director-general of Ministry of Local Governance in Tulkarem, Raed Muqbil.
Israel razes East Jerusalem home
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces razed a home and small animal shelter in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of At-Tur on Tuesday, after the owner was told the home was built without a license.  Wael Darwish Da’na, father of ten, said he had been served with a warning notice two months earlier, but had hired a lawyer to contest the demolition.
Jerusalem: Israeli Authorities Demolish A Farm And Bulldoze Lands
Maysa Abu Ghazaleh – Jerusalem \PNN – the Israeli Nature Development Authorities demolished on Tuesday a Palestinian owned farm and bulldozed farmlands in East Jerusalem.  The farm belongs to Wa’el Da’nna, he says that the destruction of his farm happened without any warning. The farm had 50 sheep, six horses in addition to olive trees.  Meanwhile bulldozers belongs to the Nature Development Authorities also bulldozed farm lands owned Palestinian Palestinians near Jerusalem; the bulldozers damaged the water and electcity networks of the nearby houses, the residents said.
Israeli troops continue onslaught against West Bank homes
Israeli bulldozers backed by police and special forces stormed Tuesday morning two south Negev towns unrecognized by the Israeli government, razing two houses. [Hamas website, may not be accessible to all]
PA says settlers bulldozed land in Bethlehem village
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Agriculture’s anti-wall and settlement unit on Wednesday toured land in the Al-Khader village that was overturned by settlers.  Unit coordinator Awad Abu Suwiey said settlers bulldozed a 30-by-10-meter part of the plot and uprooted 30 grapevines and several almond trees.
Israeli settlers raid olive orchards, attempt to steal olives
Tuesday September 21, 2010 – 18:18, A number of Palestinian civilians were wounded in clashes with Israeli settlers who invaded the olive orchards that belong to the Palestinian farmers in the village of Burin, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Settlers Harvesting Palestinian Olives; Clash Erupted South of Al-Khalil 
20 Sep 2010 – Palestinians from the occupied West Bank village of Burin and settlers from the settlement of Har Brakha, near Nablus, clashed Monday.   Israeli occupation soldiers dispatched to the scene dispersed the clash, declared the area a restricted military zone and restored order.
22 September 2010: Following court petition, Israel will reduce prohibited mining in the West Bank
Israel will stop Israeli mining According to a report in Ha’aretz, Israel will stop Israeli mining activity in the West Bank, which breaches the prohibition in international law on exploiting the natural resources of an occupied territory. The decision was made following Yesh Din’s petition, in March 2009, to the High Court of Justice, demanding that the mining work cease.
Quartet to urge Israel to keep settlement freeze
The Quartet statement, to be issued after a meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, increases pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend a 10-month settlement freeze due to expire at the end of September.
Netanyahu: Continued settlement construction shouldn’t end Mideast peace talks
Referring to the possibility of holding referendum on a future peace deal, PM says the people of Israel will have to decide, ‘one way or another.’
Could Israelis in Occupied West Bank Derail Peace Talks? ( – Negotiations over their fate come and go, but those Israelis who’ve made their homes in occupied territory see themselves as intractable facts on the ground.*
Playwright Sobol: Settlements are like ticks on a dog
Jeruslalem Post 20 Sep 2010 – During a Peace Now flight, writer compares settlements to metastasized tumors.
Israel Developing “Jewish Tourist Sites” in West Bank
As Palestinian and Israeli delegations continue meeting for peace negotiations, Israel’s Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov has announced plans to designate NIS 9 million for the development and renovation of tourist sites in settlements in the occupied West Bank.
* Solidarity/Activism/Boycott, Sanctions & Divestment


The Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat demands the release of all Palestinian Authority political prisoners and an end to the policy of security cooperation and calls upon all to rally for Palestinian prisoners October 5-15, 2010

Conscientious Objector O S Imprisoned

 Conscientious objector Druz Zionist traitor O S was sentenced to 20 days of imprisonment after refusing to continue his military service in the Israeli army.  Druz Zionist traitor CO O S, 19, from the town of Yehud, near Tel Aviv, was sentenced to 20 days of imprisonment. O S enlisted in the Israeli military eight months ago. It was already as a soldier that he decided to refuse to continue his military service.

Peaceful al Ma’asara demonstration attacked by soldiers, Joseph Dan
Some thirty Palestinian, Israeli and international activists gathered this week in alMa’asara to protest against Israeli Apartheid and the Wall. The small procession passed through the village, and was met by a gang of soldiers and Border Police officers at its outskirts. The soldiers declared the area was a closed military zone, and allowed the demonstrators a minute to leave.
Syrian aid boat docks in Egypt
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A Syrian-sponsored aid boat carrying goods for Gaza docked in the Egyptian port of Al-Arish on Wednesday, a statement issued by the Syrian Red Crescent read.  Head of the Syrian Red Crescent Marwan Abdallah said a delegation arrived in Egypt on Wednesday to accompany the transfer of goods into Gaza. The delegation will be permitted into the Strip with 40 tons of medical supplies.
Libyan aid flotilla plans to leave for Gaza Strip
Libyan Civil Mission to Support Palestinian People announces it will send “Jerusalem 5” aid convoy, ‘Palestine Telegraph’ reports.
Gaza-bound aid ship due to set sail from Indonesia soon
The Deputy Speaker of Indonesia Parliament Dr. Muhammad Anis Matta said preparations are being made to send a naval convoy from Indonesia to Gaza to bust the Israeli siege. [Hamas website, may not be accessible to all]
Seven ways you can get on board with the Canadian Boat to Gaza
Our pan-Canadian committee is moving quickly to make the Canadian Boat to Gaza a reality. The international community believes that, at this time, we can achieve the most impact in our goal of breaking the siege by sending flotillas in partnership with the Free Gaza Movement.  We plan to sail with the next international flotilla — with boats from USA, South America, and Europe — in late fall of this year. We are building momentum and gaining support, with diverse communities from across Canada rallying behind our project. An effort of this magnitude will take all of us, and there is a role for everyone as this exciting project unfolds. Here are seven ways you can get on board the Boat to Gaza.
Army chief: More flotilla casualties possible
Preparing for another clash? Resistance to IDF forces on board upcoming flotillas may result in casualties, Chief of Staff Ashkenazi tells Knesset committee; Gaza-bound vessels ‘a challenge for the IDF and for Israel,’ he says.,7340,L-3958202,00.html
Palestinians to call for boycott of Israeli goods in front of settlement supermarket,  Joseph Dana
A protest vigil in front of the Rami Levy supermarket in front of the Sha’ar Binyamin settlement, off road 60 on Thursday 23rd of September.The Rami Levy supermarket chain has several stores in settlements throughout the West Bank, and carries many settlement products. The chain is popular among some Palestinian shoppers, attracting its clientele through cheap pricing.  The protesters will call on Palestinians to avoid supporting the Occupation and settlements’ economy by boycotting Israeli goods and settlement stores. Demonstrators will also remind Palestinians that Rami Levy, the owner of the supermarket chain, is a member of the Jerusalem municipality, and as such is directly complicit in Jerusalem house demolitions and city-sponsored settler takeovers of Palestinian homes.
British trade union approves West Bank boycott
LONDON (JTA) – Britain’s national trade union has again voted to support a boycott of goods made in West Bank settlements and of companies profiting from the area.  Delegates to the Trade Unions Congress’s (TUC) annual conference voted unanimously last week to support the boycott resolution.  The union also condemned the Histadrut, Israel’s national trade union, for supporting the Gaza blockade and Israel’s action to stop the aid flotilla in May. It reiterated its support and continued cooperation with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Palestinian trade unions.
Settlement boycott to target Israeli chain store
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Authority Ministry of National Economy, charged with implementing the boycott of settlement-made goods, announced Tuesday it will be launching a boycott campaign against an Israeli chain of superstores, a statement read.  The ministry said the Rami Levi Shivok Hashikma chain, which has “spread like cancer” following the opening of new stores in Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem.
US food co-op considers boycott of Israeli goods
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A California food co-op will vote Tuesday on a plan put forward by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement to ban Israeli goods from store shelves in a move that has riled Israeli diplomats.  Israeli deputy consul-general for the California area Gideon Lustig traveled to Port Townsend, the town whose co-op is considering the boycott, at the request of an Israel advocacy group which opposes the boycott of Israeli products.
Celebrities cultural boycotting Israel
The issue of Israeli settlements has captured attention far beyond the arena of international politics. Several celebrities have now thrown their weight behind what is being termed a “cultural boycott” against further building on Palestinian land. But with Israel’s construction freeze due to expire at the end of the month, there are doubts that these efforts will make any impact. Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reports.
BNC Event: “South African anti-apartheid strategy and BDS, then and now” 
Global BDS 21 Sep 2010 – The Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee(BNC)cordially invites you to a public presentation entitled “South African anti-apartheid strategy and BDS, then and now” by Professor Patrick Bond.
Segregation and solidarity, Joseph Dana
The following is in response to an informal gathering of ‘solidarity’ the Sheikh Jarrah movement is holding in Tel Aviv on Friday to inform israelis about the struggle there and hopefully recruit more people.
Audrey Farber responds again to NIF guidelines
As anyone knows who has actually seen the new NIF guidelines , the mention of the character of the state of Israel doesn’t come until the very end. In fact, as would be expected from a grant-making institution, the majority of the guidelines cover standard funding topics. They require the grant applicants to be in full compliance with laws, to be relevant to NIF, to be a non-profit, and to maintain standards of transparency and accountability. Only at the end to we find the notorious “NIF will never support your organization” clauses which have elicited sensationalist reactions. But if we actually read them, we find that perhaps these are not so sensational.
Ahava Complicit in the Sins of Occupation, Alex Kane
Walk into any Ricky’s store, a beauty shop chain in New York, and you will find a shelf filled with Ahava products. For $28, you can buy mineral toning cleanser; for $22, Dead Sea liquid salt; and for $9, purifying mud soap. The products made by Ahava (which means “love” in Hebrew) seem innocent enough, perfectly enticing for anyone fond of beauty products.  But looks can be deceiving. As activists from the peace group CodePink’s Stolen Beauty campaign are fond of chanting at protests, Ahava can’t hide its “dirty side.”
BDS: Boycotting Apartheid
In July, in Rachel Corrie’s hometown of Olympia, Washington state, the popular Food Co-op announced that no Israeli products would be sold at its two grocery stores. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a principal endorser of this new Israel Divestment Campaign, issued a statement endorsing the boycott. “The Olympia Food Co-op has joined a growing worldwide movement on the part of citizens and the private sector to support by non-violent tangible acts the Palestinian struggle for justice and self-determination.”
* Anti

New H&M Apartheid Store Inaugurated
On 26 August 2010, H&M opened its fourth store in the apartheid state of Israel. To mark the occasion, on 8 September BDS activists in Gothenburg, Sweden protested outside the local H&M flagship store. The protest theme was a satirical inauguration of the new apartheid store, with an inaugural speech, ribbon cutting ceremony, question competition, checkpoint, and flyers.

The Siege (Gaza & West Bank)/Humanitarian/Restriction of Movement/Human Rights/Racism
Gaza medical sector facing crisis
The organization Medecin Sans Frontieres [Doctors Without Borders] has emphasised that the continued Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip which has lasted for several years has had a negative impact on the health sector and provision of medical services to the sick and wounded.  During a press conference in Gaza on Tuesday, 21 September, the head of the MSF mission in the Palestinian territories, John Locke, said: “The siege and the closure of the crossings has had serious implications for the health sector and the medical services provided to citizens due to a lack of medical supplies, medicines and fuel” adding that “despite it being a year and a half on from the most recent Israeli war and the opening of crossing points to allow in aid sent by the various international non-governmental organizations, the conditions of the health services within the sector remains fragile.”
160 killed in Gaza tunnels: Rights groups
Human rights groups say 160 Palestinians have died digging cross-border tunnels between the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Falling standards of living and unprecedented levels of unemployment together with unrelenting poverty have led many young Gazans to risk their lives in tunnels to make a living.
Egypt: “Aid Must Be Unloaded In Al Arish Before Being Moved To Gaza”
Tuesday September 21, 2010 – 01:15, A spokesperson of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, stated Monday that the Egyptian Authorities are closely following “Artery of Life 5” aid convoy heading to Egypt, and will allow aid supplies to enter Gaza as long as organizers follow Egyptian standards.
Israel seals West Bank for 7-day holiday
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Israeli army announced Tuesday that it will be closing off all crossings between the West Bank and Israel at midnight, ahead of the seven-day Jewish holiday of Sukkot.  A statement issued by the military said the crossings will be reopened on 30 September “in accordance with security assessments adopted by the defense establishment.”
Palestinians forced to claw their way to building Israel’s dream homes
Some arrive before 3 A.M. so that they can make it to work on time and earn NIS 200 a day.
At one Jerusalem mall, 1 in 3 Jews disapprove of Arab shoppers
Shtern said that 35 percent of the Jewish shoppers he interviewed at Malha expressed negative opinions about Arabs there. “If I would go to them, they’d butcher me,” one woman said. One man said the mall had “gone down hill” with the Arabs there.
Israel Makes Meeting Another Arab a Crime, Jonathan Cook
A vague security offence of “contact with a foreign agent” is being used by Israel’s secret police, the Shin Bet, to lock up Arab political activists in Israel without evidence that a crime has been committed, human rights lawyers alleged this week.  The lawyers said the Shin Bet was exploiting the law to characterise innocent or accidental meetings between members of Israel’s large Arab minority and Arab foreign nationals as criminal activity.  The chances of such contacts have increased rapidly with advances in new technology and opportunities for Israel’s Arab citizens to travel to the wider Arab world, said Hussein Abu Hussein, a lawyer who represents security detainees.
Al Heyt Ethiopia
These powerless and humble folk have been misled, lied to, disappointed and left to rot. By keeping the Falashmura in limbo, we have dramatically lowered the standard of living of the poorest of the poor.
Israel Arrests 35 African Immigrants
Tuesday September 21, 2010 – 08:48, Israeli soldiers arrested nearly 35 African immigrants who managed to infiltrate into Israel through three border points in the center of Sinai and south of the Kerem Shalom (Karem Abu Salem) crossing.
Haredi extremists versus visitors – women are not invited
Gender relations, Mea She’arim style: non-Haredi women plan a march through the neighborhood Friday morning to protest discrimination against women.
Hamas’ Record on Women, a Mixed Bag, Hanitizer
When it comes to women rights, Hamas in Gaza continues to pass and enforce laws and regulations that are baffling to say the least. I have been watching their actions on women related matters and most of the time I am surprised by how much time to dedicate to making the life for women a bit more difficult. But then when I went to Gaza and saw how things are, I started to see Hamas’s record as a mixed bag. While the majority of Hamas figures see the home and family are the only place for a women. Many Hamas supporters also engage in polygamy (but her husband is a Shaheed).  Granted there are things I see as a downside, some might seem them as an upside. For example, in their rallies, Hamas likes to enlist the help of women by promising them to get food stamps for showing up to their rallies. Here is a list of observations on Hamas’ record on women as the Hamas government continues to make waves.
* Violence/Aggression & Provocations

Two Silwan residents shot dead by settlement guards; Massive army presence as clashes continue in Baten el-Hawa, next to Beit Yonathan settlement
Very early this morning in Silwan Village, a patrol of private armed guards stopped near a group of unarmed Palestinian men who were on the Wadi Hilweh Street. According to eyewitness reports, the guards spoke provocatively to the Palestinians, and an argument took place between them. It was during the verbal argument that eyewitnesses say the settlement guards opened fire on the Palestinian men. The two injured were brought to Ein Kerem hospital. One of the Palestinians, Samer Sarhan, who is a father of five young children, was pronounced dead immediately upon arrival to the hospital. The second man is now confirmed as having died.

East Jerusalem clash turns deadly
One Palestinian killed and five others wounded in clash with Jewish settlers in Silwan neighbourhood.
Killing of Hamas operative raises questions about conduct of elite Israeli units in pursuing militants
Muhammad Abu Shilbaya, a brother of the slain militant, said that soldiers forced their way into his house before 3 a.m. and ordered him to lead them to his brother’s home nearby. There the front door was broken open and soldiers entered the darkened home while Muhammad was ordered to turn and face a wall outside.   “I heard Iyad call three times, ‘Who’s there?’ and seconds later I heard shooting,” Muhammad Abu Shilbaya said. “Then it was quiet.” The brother said that soldiers ordered him to sit on the floor inside the house, and they opened a stretcher to take out the body of the slain man.
IOF soldiers shoot at Rafah farmers
Israeli occupation forces (IOF) opened machinegun fire at Palestinian farmers and shepherds near Gaza airport to the east of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, on Tuesday, eyewitnesses reported.[Hamas website, may not be accessible to all]
Settlers attack school near the Ibrahimi Mosque
Jewish settlers in Al-Khalil city attacked Palestinian school pupils while on their way to school and threw stones at them, claiming their children were attacked by the pupils. [Hamas website, may not be accessible to all]
Union leader: Israeli forces raid stone factory
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A union leader said Israeli forces raided a marble factory in Beit Fajjar in the southern West Bank district of Bethlehem on Tuesday, confiscated machinery and equipment.  Chairman of the Board of Stone and Marble Industry Union Subhi Thawabta said the raid “aimed at striking the Palestinian economy’s infrastructure and its most important national sector.”  Thawabta appealed to the international community to bring an end to Israeli attacks against Palestinians, particularly against the Palestinian economy.
Complaint lodged in case of 16-year-old girl used as a human shield
[Ramallah, 22 September 2010] – On Monday, 20 September 2010, DCI-Palestine and Adalah lodged a complaint with the Israeli Military Advocate General (MAG) arising out of the use by Israeli soldiers of a child as a human shield.  DCI-Palestine and Adalah have received credible evidence that at 3:30am, on 18 February 2010, a 16-year-old girl (D.A.) was used as a human shield by units of the Israeli army whilst conducting operations in the old city of Nablus, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
* Detainees

Israeli army raids school, detains 2 pupils
HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces raided a school in Hebron’s Old City on Wednesday and detained two ninth grade students, the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education said in a statement.  The PA ministry said forces raided the Al-Ibrahimmiyee School after surrounding it for over an hour, searched classes and detained Anas Jabber and Deya Beshar “accusing them of throwing stones on a settler’s car that was passing near the school.”

Israeli Military kidnapped Two Palestinians
Israeli military kidnapped two Palestinian civilians from the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem and the nearby village of Hussan, Wednesday morning.
Israeli Army Abducts Citizens From Jenin
Monday September 20, 2010 – 12:13, Israeli military abducted three citizens from the villages of Jab’a and Seelit ad-Dahr, and invaded the northern West Bank city of Jenin Monday morning.
Israeli army detains 6 Nablus residents
NABLUS (Ma’an) — The Israeli army detained six Palestinians from the northern West Bank city of Nablus after armoured vehicles raided the area early Wednesday morning, a Palestinian security source told Ma’an.  The source said forces entered the eastern area of the city at 2 a.m. and raided Amman Street, An-Najah Old City Street, Ras Al-Ein, At-Titi Bridge and the Al-Ma’ajin area before detaining six young men and later withdrawing from the city.
Women’s Organization for Political Prisoners (WOFPP)
There are, at present, 37 women political prisoners in the Israeli jails: 22 in Hasharon Prison (Tel Mond), 15 in Damoon Prison (Carmel Mountain).  To learn more about this click the link.
* Israel’s Arab Helpers

Activists face broad PA crackdown in West Bank
As direct negotiations are underway between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, activists with dissenting political parties are being arrested and worse in the occupied West Bank. Nora Barrows-Friedman reports from Dehiesheh refugee camp.

PA cracks down on Hamas official for criticizing peace talks
Abd El Rahman Zidan arrested overnight, taken to police headquarters and subsequently released into the city’s main street wearing pajamas.
Abbas’s militia detains son of MP, as criticism mounts of its kidnap of Zeidan
Militia loyal to de facto Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday detained Hamza Qarawi, the son of Hamas MP Fathi Qarawi, while working in Rafidiya hospital in Nablus.[Hamas website, may not be accessible to all]
Hamas prisoners: Violations in Israeli jails rise with every round of peace talk
The Hamas senior leadership committee of prisoners in Israeli jails said Tuesday that recent cell raids in Israeli jails recur with every new round of negotiations between PA and Israel.[Hamas website, may not be accessible to all]
Gaza on the Ground: Angry Gazan Accuses Hamas of ‘Protecting the Borders With Israel’, Mohammed Omer
The anger prompting a controversial e-mail from a Gazan calling himself “Mr. Joker” was unmistakable. After all, it was sent at the very time Israel was coming under heavy international criticism for its deadly May 31, 2010 attack on the humanitarian Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Despite requests from the U.N., Turkey and other countries and international organizations for an independent investigation of the assault, Netanyahu’s right-wing government was showing little intention of cooperating with, much less undertaking, such an investigation.

Hamas: Egypt using open border to trap officials
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Hamas accused Cairo Tuesday of using the Rafah crossing’s opening to detain party officials as they travel abroad via Egypt following the detention of the Gaza government’s intelligence chief in Cairo.  Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told reporters that opening the border to trap Hamas officials was “unacceptable and inappropriate,” following the detention of General Security Service Commander Muhammad Dabaeesh, also known as Abu Radwan, at the Cairo International Airport.

Egypt destroys 15 Gaza smuggling tunnels
El Arish, Egypt – Egyptian security forces on Tuesday destroyed 15 tunnels used to smuggle cars, petrol and other goods into the Gaza Strip, a security source said.  After destroying the tunnels, officials discovered 12 more running across various points along Egypt’s 11-kilometre-long border with Gaza, the source said.  The source said that Egyptian authorities confirmed with officials on the Gaza side of the border that no people were underground before demolishing the tunnels.
Egyptian writer: Arresting Debabesh meant to pressure Hamas to sign document
An Egyptian writer has opined that the detention of Hamas leader Mohammed Debabesh was meant as a pressure card on Hamas to sign the Egyptian document for Palestinian reconciliation as is.[Hamas website, may not be accessible to all]

Hamas slams Egypt over arrest of top official (AFP)
AFP – The Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza on Tuesday condemned Egypt’s arrest of one of its top officials, calling it an “extremely dangerous” move by Cairo.*
* Reprisals

Qassam fired from Gaza following Netanyahu visit
Several hours after Netanyahu toured Gaza vicinity communities, Hamas fires rocket at Israel, which explodes on Palestinian side of fence. No injuries or damage reported.,7340,L-3958422,00.html

* “Peace” Talks/Political Developments

Gaza: Factions convene over direct talks
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Fatah participated in a meeting called for by Islamic Jihad and Hamas to discuss direct negotiations in Gaza City on Tuesday, an Islamic Jihad spokesman said.  The spokesman said the meeting was convened in order to form a stance on direct talks and discuss “Israeli threats to launch aggression against the Gaza Strip.”

Al-Masri arrives in Gaza for unity talks
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Palestinian National Coalition leader Munib Al-Masri arrived in Gaza on Tuesday to discuss the ratification of a unity deal between rival movements Hamas and Fatah.  The Nablus businessman and independent politician met with Hamas officials upon his arrive and said he was scheduled to meet with Fatah leaders the following day to “brainstorm and discuss what is going on in order to respond to any emergency that may threaten the national project.”
Fatah: Hamas in West Bank seek coup
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Hamas leaders in the West Bank are plotting a coup against the Palestinian Authority similar to the Islamist movement’s take over of Gaza in 2007, a Fatah spokesman said Tuesday.  Ahmad Assaf said Hamas officials in the West Bank also played a hand in the Gaza coup, blaming the movement for “this division and fragmentation,” a statement read.
Fayyad, Ayalon meeting ends abruptly over two-state solution dispute
The delegates cancel joint press conference scheduled after Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in N.Y.; committee coordinates financial aid for Palestinians.
Mideast peacemakers cancel conference amid rancor (AP)
AP – The Quartet of Mideast peacemakers shepherding newly started direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have abruptly canceled a planned a news conference at the United Nations, after failing to reach agreement on who would appear on behalf of the group.*
Obama responds to Palestinian petition
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — US President Barack Obama responded to a petition Sunday signed by Palestinians calling for an end to the Israeli occupation and support for Palestinian self-determination. The letter was delivered to Sabri Seiydem, who coordinated the campaign, via the US Consulate in East Jerusalem.
Next 10 days decisive for Mideast peace talks: Palestinians (AFP)
AFP – The next 10 days will be key for the future of the Middle East peace talks, a Palestinian spokesman told AFP on Tuesday as negotiators sought ways to end a standoff over Jewish settlements.*
Senators to Obama: Don’t let Abbas slink away from peace talks, Josh Rogin
A bipartisan group of senators are circulating a new letter urging President Obama to speak out publicly to pressure the Palestinian leadership not to abandon the Middle East peace talks.  The new initiative comes ahead of the Sept. 26 deadline expiration of Israel’s 10-month settlement construction moratorium, which presents the first obstacle to the direct peace talks being spearheaded by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly stated that he will withdraw from the negotiations if settlement construction resumes, but Israeli leaders have been equally adamant that they will not extend the moratorium.
Clinton urges Qatar to give funds to Palestinians (AFP)
AFP – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday urged the emir of the wealthy Gulf Arab state of Qatar to contribute more funds to the Palestinian Authority, her spokesman said.*
*Other News

Arab-backed anti-Israel resolution at IAEA could pass
Eleventh-hour bid to block measure focuses on non-aligned countries.  Israel is making an eleventh-hour effort to block a resolution of the International Atomic Energy Agency General Assembly calling on the country to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and open the Dimona nuclear complex to inspection.

Egypt accuses Israel of “chutzpah” at nuclear meet (AP)
AP – Egypt accused Israel on Wednesday of displaying “chutzpah” — blatant shamelessness — in unusually harsh comments at a 151-nation meeting on the issue of a nuclear-free Mideast.*

Bill Clinton: Russian immigrants ‘obstacle to peace’
Former US president tells reporters ‘Russians’ most opposed to division of land, native-born Israelis most in favor, ‘Moroccans’ can vote both ways. Yisrael Beiteinu: Clinton forgot it was Arafat who rejected his far-reaching proposal.,7340,L-3958611,00.html

Author questioned for allegedly smuggling Palestinians into Israel for day of fun
‘We don’t recognize the legality of the entry law into Israel,’ author Ilana Hammerman tells Haaretz, adding she is not deterred by possible 2-year prison term.
Israel’s investigations of Gaza conflict inadequate, say UN experts
A United Nations committee has accused Israel of failing to investigate abuses allegedly committed during its offensive in Gaza nearly two years ago, raising the prospect of International Criminal Court indictments.
Hamas: Criticisms of Gaza probe ‘aimed at PA’
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The UN’s criticisms of probes into the Gaza war were meant for the Palestinian Authority’s report, the political advisor to the Gaza government premier Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday.  Yousef Razqa said accusations that “Hamas made no serious effort” to investigate the allegations into the UN fact-finding mission led by jursist Richard Goldstone should be directed at the Palestinian Authority, claiming the UN committee did not publish the Gaza government’s findings into allegations of war crimes committed by Israel and the Islamist movement.
Hamas action to catch spies spreads panic in Gaza
Hamas refuses to say who it has arrested, a policy that has sparked a furious rumor mill since the arrests began earlier in September.
Barak can block hostile portions of Olmert book
Jeruslalem Post 20 Sep 2010 – Officials say defense minister may use post on censorship committee to prevent publication; former Sharon aides confirm defense minister once ‘begged’ to join Kadima.
Israel rejects offer to join UN atomic agency
In response to Arab initiative, Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission chief says Jewish state only country to be singled out, asked to take decision against its national interests.,7340,L-3958321,00.html
* Analysis/Opinion/Human Interest

Israel Turns its Guns on Internationals
With every day that passes Israel further establishes itself as one of the world’s leading violators of human rights. To its British and American allies this may be seen as a gross overstatement; after all there are plenty of despotic, third world countries that arguably have worse human rights records. The question is – how many of them model themselves as democratic, advanced, first world, nuclear allies? The cold, hard facts of Israel’s ever worsening track record are well documented by human rights organisations and the UN, and they speak for themselves.

Palestinians and the ‘Jewish state’, Lamis Andoni
If Palestinians recognised Israel as a Jewish state they would be effectively legitimising their own dispossession.
Israel’s unreasonable demand | Omar Rahman
Asking Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state is like urging the IRA to see Northern Ireland as a Protestant entity. “The Palestinians must recognise Israel as a Jewish state.” This is the mantra of the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has been promoting this controversial idea as a condition of any peace deal.  But is such recognition valid, necessary, or even appropriate? This question will certainly remain at the heart of negotiations with an Israeli leadership that views such recognition as imperative. Although this is not the first time Israel has sought some form of validation, it varies from the past in stark and troubling ways.
Harvard Crimson: ‘No donation is worth indebting the University to practioners of hate and bigotry’, Adam Horowitz
Oh, you thought that quote was in reference to the ongoing Marty Peretz saga? Think again. From the Harvard Crimson – in 2003:  While Harvard depends on the generous donations of its benefactors, nothing is gained from a gift that taints its integrity. The University is right to freeze a $2.5-million donation from Shiekh Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), until the full extent of his connection to an extremist think tank that he founded, the Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-up, is brought to light.  Sheikh Zayed made the donation to the Harvard Divinity School (HDS) in 2000 to support the worthy goal of hiring an Islamic studies professor. Unfortunately, it came to light last spring that the Zayed Center has hosted Holocaust deniers and speakers who accuse the United States government of carrying out the Sept. 11 attacks. The Zayed Center was closed by the UAE in August, but Harvard has put the donation on hold for the coming year, “in view of the evolving situation,” according to a University spokesperson.  Here’s the Crimson last week – “Lots of good can come from this donation, however controversial the figure behind it may be. It would be a shame to discount Peretz’s entire body of work and intellectual contributions due to two unfortunate sentences.”  If it were only “two unfortunate sentences.” Harvard returned the donation from Al Nahyan, it remains to be seen what they will do with Peretz.
Contrary to reports, Peretz will address Harvard social studies gathering, Adam Horowitz
It has been widely reported that Marty Peretz was dropped as a speaker from this weekend’s 50th Anniversary of Social Studies gathering at Harvard University. This appears to be incorrect. The Harvard Crimson reports on the official statement of the the Standing Committee on Degrees in Social Studies.
Harvard Still Doesn’t Get it, Stephen M. Walt
I hadn’t intended to say anything further about the shameful Martin Peretz affair, and lord knows there are plenty of good reasons for me not to poke my finger in the eye of Harvard’s current leadership. But seriously: You’d think after nearly 400 years the leaders of the university would have figured out what the principles of academic freedom and free speech really mean — and also what they don’t mean. But judging from the official university response to the furor, the people I work for appear to be somewhat confused about these issues.
Best Option: Dignified Failure, Sam Bahour, Al-Bireh, The West Bank
The entire U.S. administration’s Middle East A-team–President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and Special Envoy Mitchell–is defying the mass majority of political analysts by dismissing the status quo in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip, and insisting that the latest round of Palestinian-Israeli direct talks has the potential to lead to an agreement which will resolve the conflict. I have a deep fear that they may be correct in predicting an agreement will be signed, but I do not have an iota of confidence that it will end the conflict.
Time for the Palestinians to regroup, Rami G. Khouri
I was in Amman last week on the same day that US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton passed through for lunch with the king of Jordan and stressed how all the negotiators on the Palestinian-Israeli track were very serious about reaching an agreement.

Democracy in Arab eyes,  Bouthaina Shaaban
On the International Day of Democracy, satellite television channels focused on the type of democracy imported, together with blood baths, disasters, wars and American invasions charged with hatred and oppression for Muslims.

Martin Peretz in Love, LAWRENCE DAVIDSON
Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief of The New Republic. He acquired that position by simply buying the magazine in 1974. Although he resold it to a group of investors in 2002, they were, and apparently remain, his ideological soul mates for he continues to this day to be the magazine’s executive editor.
The Pollard Principle, Justin Raimondo
On July 13 of this year, the municipal government of Jerusalem honored one of Israel’s most popular national heroes, a man who had suffered and sacrificed his all for the Jewish state, and is recognized by practically everyone as not only a hero but a modern exemplar of Zionist virtue.
Sheikh Bukhary’s wife, Iris Keltz
I met Hala through mutual friends in New Mexico who asked me to deliver a thank you gift for Sheik Bukhary’s wife. I agreed, before realizing the fleece robe would fill a third of my suitcase. When I phoned, Hala advised me her husband was in Hadassah hospital after suffering a heart attack. I wished him a speedy recovery and resigned myself to mailing the robe. But Hala called later in the week to say her husband was home and and I was welcome to visit. Following a simple hand drawn map, I searched for their home along the Via Dolorosa, jostled by Christian pilgrims from around the world, hungrily soaking up every word from erudite guides. The moment I entered the book-lined room, a sense of calm came over me. Their home, a cultural center for an estimated 3,000 plus Uzbeks living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza was also a library filled with ancient, hand-written Islamic manuscripts. Dressed in a white cotton robe with a white cap on his head, the Sheikh invited me to sit in a comfortable chair near the sofa from which he seemed to be holding court with three modern looking gentlemen. The Sheikh’s face was without lines, a greying beard, the only sign of aging. Without asking to search my shopping bag, the Sheikh offered me a cup of tea, adding in perfect English, “All are welcome here.”
* Lebanon

Lebanon confirms Hariri aide tried to finger ex-general over assassination claims
BEIRUT // The Lebanese government yesterday confirmed that an aide to the prime minister had accused a former security official of demanding a payoff of US$15 million to drop his claims that the premier had pressed witnesses to implicate Syria and its Lebanese allies in the assassination in 2005 of Rafik Hariri.

Aoun: STL Should Not Work without Resolving False Witnesses Issue
The head of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc MP Michel Aou said on Tuesday that from a legal perspective, if false witnesses are uncovered during an investigation, the indictment should be delayed until the witnesses are dealt with.   “An indictment should not be issued until the case of false witnesses is resolved,” Aoun told reporters following his bloc’s weekly meeting at his residence in Rabieh.
Egypt Concerned: Hezbollah Challenging State in Lebanon!
20/09/2010 Egyptian Foreign Affairs ministry spokesperson Hussam Zaki raised concerns on Monday over “the recent developments in Lebanon,” warning against embroiling Cairo in the “trivial conflicts” among Lebanese political forces.  “Concerns are not linked to the fact that some Lebanese expressly rely on weapons that are ruled neither by the Executive Power nor by the Judicial Power, but also include the entire situation prevailing in Lebanon since the last few weeks,” Zaki said in a statement, accusing Hezbollah of “relying on the power of weapons that are beyond the control of the Lebanese state.”  “Egypt is concerned as promises were not honored but rather replaced by instigation and promotion of discord and challenge of the State, based on the power of none State-ruled weapons, as recently seen,” he added.
A land of war and peace, Hasan Abu Nimah
In May 2000, after two decades of brutal Israeli rule and stiff resistance, the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon suddenly ended. The Israeli army fled in haste and within hours the South Lebanon Army (SLA) – its local collaborator militia – collapsed and many of its members also fled to Israel where they still live. Joyful Lebanese, including tens of thousands of displaced southerners streamed home to the liberated lands.  Much of the equipment left behind by Israel and its collaborators is now exhibited at a museum housed in a former Hizbollah command centre in the village of Mlita, in the heart of southern Lebanon.
* Iraq

Tuesday: 9 Iraqis Killed, 40 Wounded
At least nine Iraqis were killed and 40 more were wounded in the latest violence. Meanwhile the Iraqi Air Force opened its flight academy last week, even though they are still completely dependent on the United States for air security. Also, Deputy Prime Minister Rafia al-Issawi denied rumors he has received threats from P.M. Nouri al-Maliki trying to intimidate al-Issawi into approving the premier for a second term.

Iraqis put their health at risk
Mounting numbers of Iraqi patients avert visiting doctors; instead, they tend to treat themselves by reaching out to suppliers who sell medicaments on the streets.
Iraq Shi’ite-led blocs set deadline to nominate PM (Reuters)
Reuters – Iraq’s Shi’ite-led blocs on Tuesday gave themselves five days to pick a single candidate for prime minister, and one politician said the incumbent, Nuri al-Maliki, was in a strong position to gain a second term.*
Group of Iraqis deported from Europe return home (AP)
AP – Several dozen Iraqis who failed to gain asylum in Europe were returned to Iraq on Wednesday despite concerns the situation is still too dangerous, the U.N. refugee agency said.*
Fallujah, a Disgrace for the USA, an Eternal Curse on Humanity,  Dirk Adriaensens
Despite the “end of combat operations”, American forces stepped in with ground troops and air support in three incidents in different parts of Iraq, when their Iraqi counterparts were so-called “threatened by suicide attackers or well-armed gunmen”, according to U.S. and Iraqi military accounts.[1]  One of those” incidents” occurred in Fallujah on Wednesday 15 September 2010 [following the official withrdrawal of US troops], where 7 civilians were killed and 4 injured. Their names will be added to the endless list of victims of the US aggression against this troubled city. May they never be forgotten.
How goes Iraq? view from a bookstore is revealing (AP)
AP – The Iqraa bookstore on Mutanabi street has more than tripled in size in the last two years. Business is up 50 percent since 2003.*
* Iran

Ahmadinejad says there’s a ‘good chance’ talks may resume over Iran’s nuclear program
Talks with the U.S. are ‘bound to happen’ because ‘what is left is talks … there’s no other way,’ says Ahmadinejad, who denies that newly imposed international sanctions are hurting Iran’s economy.  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that he saw a “good chance” that talks will resume soon with the United States over Iran’s disputed nuclear program because “there is no other alternative.”,0,1225605.story

Ahmadinejad lost in translation
Iran’s president takes centre stage at the United Nations but his attack on the “unjust” west failed to be heard.
Lindsey Graham says U.S. Must Prepare to Attack Iran,  James Rosen
Graham, a military lawyer and a senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, became the first senator to support direct U.S. military intervention in Iran, saying it should not involve ground troops but be launched by U.S. warplanes and ships.
VIDEO:  How Dangerous Is Iran Really?
Glenn Greenwald and Dylan Ratigan Discuss Neocon Warmongering for Attack on Iran.
*U.S. and Other World News

Virginia to execute first woman in almost 100 years

Despite IQ of 70-72, grandmother expected to die by lethal injection on Thursday; Referring to stoning, Iran accuses US of double standard Barring a last-minute reprieve from the US Supreme Court, 41-year-old Teresa Lewis will on Thursday become the first woman to be executed by the state of Virginia in almost 100 years.

Texas board looks to ban ‘pro-Islamic bias’ from school books
Led by a conservative majority, the Texas Board of Education is stepping into the national media furor over a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States, gearing up to vote later this week on whether or not “pro-Islamic bias” should be banned from school books.
US Senate blocks gay troops debate
Votes fall short for the debate to proceed on the bill that authorises homosexuals to serve openly in the military.
Civilian shot dead by foreign troops
NATO Special Forces killed a civilian and wounded two others during a nighttime operation in southeastern Khost province, officials said on Monday.
US Kills 19 People In Pakistan
‘The attack was conducted on the information that the commander Shamsullah was present in the house, but he was not there,’ said an intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity. ‘The attack killed at least seven people and destroyed the mud compound.’
Police beat some anti-government protesters in Egypt
CAIRO, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Police beat a handful of demonstrators with batons on Tuesday at a protest of about 200 Egyptians gathering against what they said were plans to hand power to the president’s son.  President Hosni Mubarak, 82, in power since 1981, has not said if he will run in the 2011 election. But persistent rumours about his health have helped fuel talk he could hand power to his politician son, Gamal, 46. Both deny any such plan.
Shia crackdowns in Middle East
Two Shia figures in Kuwait and Bahrain are stripped of their citizenships as Shia crackdowns spike in the region.
Inside Story – The Shia-Sunni divide
This week two Shia activists in the Gulf states have been stripped of their citizenships, sparking claims of discrimination and pointing to growing tensions between Sunni and Shia. Many fear it could spark unrest in the region, and lead to new alliances and a new revival of shia interests.

The New Saudi Arms Deal – Stephen M. Walt
The Obama administration is about to propose the sale of more than $60 billion worth of advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia. Apart from providing an obvious boost to the U.S. defense industry, the clear purpose here is to send a message to Iran. As an unnamed U.S. official stated a few days ago, “We want Iran to understand that its nuclear program is not getting them leverage over their neighbors, that they are not getting an advantage. . .  We want the Iranians to know that every time they think they will gain, they will actually lose.” In short, the sale is “mainly intended as a building block for Middle East regional defenses to box in Iran.”

What is Israel’s goal in the peace talks – three states for two peoples?

Sep 22, 2010

 Nirit Ben-Ari 

The following article originally appeared in NRG, the website of the Israeli daily newspaper Maariv:

Who among us who continue to follow the current affairs in this country, are again wondering, with the opening of the current round of talks, what does Israel really want? I found myself too, at the dawn of Jewish New Year and the start of the peace talks in Washington D.C, asking the same question. 
On the one hand, the best political commentators argue that Netanyahu’s opening positions are “two states for two peoples.” On the other hand, earlier in the same week when Netanyahu traveled to the White House, the COGAT announced in the Turkel Committee that the guiding principle of Israel’s policy in the Palestinian territories is “differentiation” between Gaza and the West Bank, creating a dynamic that will inevitably lead to the creation of two completely separate territories. 
What, then, does Israel want? Two states for two peoples? Three states for two peoples? How many countries, exactly, to how many people?  

A common argument is that Israel has maintained a rigid policy toward the Gaza Strip in order to weaken Hamas, which seized power in 2007. But a quick investigation shows that long before the abduction of Gilad Shalit, and long before Hamas came to power, Israel has done everything possible to separate the civilian populations in Gaza and the West Bank. In fact, it gained momentum as early as 2000. Outstanding examples include the prohibition on the transfer of students between the West Bank and Gaza and the refusal to update the registered address of Palestinian residents that moved from Gaza to the West Bank
Since 2000, security authorities prevented residents of the Gaza Strip to travel to school in the West Bank. This is a sweeping prohibition that does not address the question whether there is security information that can be used as an argument to restrict travel for an individual student. Furthermore, Israel refuses to allow passage from Gaza to the West Bank, even without crossing through Israel. Thus, hundreds of students from Gaza are prevented from learning vital subjects such as medicine, physiotherapy, health systems management, treatment and occupational therapy communication disabilities, who are not offered at universities in Gaza. 

Make no mistake: the students do not want to study in Israel. The requests are submitted by Palestinian residents of Gaza who want to enter a Palestinian territory – the West Bank – in order to learn there in institutions that were established especially for them. So is there a territorial unity between the West Bank and Gaza Strip or not? Are they expected, according to the vision of those leading the peace talks, to unite in some way? Will they remain separate? 

The refusal to change the registered address of Palestinian residents already living in the West Bank but whose address is still listed in Gaza is another way in which the policy of separation is implemented. While the Palestinian Authority has a duty to register addresses in the Population Register and inform Israel about changes, in practice, between the years 1995 to 2000, Israel ignored most notices on the change of address and did not record the changes. Beginning in 2000, with the outbreak of the second intifada, Israel has sweepingly refused to register changes from Gaza to the West Bank, and starting in 2003, Israel has begun to ban Palestinians from living in the West Bank if their registered address is Gaza – even if they lived there for years. Residents of the West Bank, even those whose homes, families, work and world are there for many years faced at once the threat of being expelled, and many of them were transferred to the Gaza Strip against their will. 
While talking about the “train between Gaza and Ramallah,” and engaging in negotiations on a two-state solution, in reality there is a disconnection between Gaza and the West which is deeper than the split in Palestinian leadership. No doubt the Palestinian division is one of the main reasons for the separation between Gaza and the West. But Israel’s policy – to prevent the passage from Gaza to the West Bank of people against whom there is no “security reasons,” and on the other hand to encourage reverse movement from the West Bank to Gaza damages the fabric of civilian life – family ties, commerce, education, and more of a future Palestinian state that will be established in the end. 
The “separation” policy raises questions about the real political horizon of Israel, and whether a two-state solution is included in it. We have to ask, our government and ourselves, what is the current policy regarding Gaza and the West Bank and what will have to change in order to reach the desired solutions. Is the face of Israel into two states? If so, the “separation policy” is certainly a stumbling block towards achieving this goal. Could it be that Lieberman, who called to completely sever Gaza from Israel and the West Bank, expresses, loudly, the vision of government? 

Nirit Ben-Ari is spokesperson for Gisha, an Israeli NGO advocating for the freedom of movement.

Contrary to reports, Peretz will address Harvard social studies gathering

Sep 22, 2010

Adam Horowitz

It has been widely reported that Marty Peretz was dropped as a speaker from this weekend’s 50th Anniversary of Social Studies gathering at Harvard University. This appears to be incorrect. The Harvard Crimson reports on the official statement of the the Standing Committee on Degrees in Social Studies:

The statement reaffirmed that Peretz will be “recognized and have the opportunity to make some brief remarks” as a former Social Studies head tutor.

The statement said that while the committee is opposed to Peretz’s controversial remarks, it will use the fund donated in his name to support undergraduates studying topics “such as the study of intercultural understanding, inequality, and social justice.”

The Crimson doesn’t report another part of the statement. Not only will Peretz be speaking this weekend, but he is being invited back to speak again. From the official statement:

Since this event was originally planned, Dr. Peretz posted statements on his blog which were the diametric opposite of what we in the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies stand for. But in his blog on September 17th, Dr. Peretz apologized. He has also agreed to come to Harvard at a later date and explain his true views to an undergraduate audience.

Does anyone doubt what his true views are? You can read the official Harvard statement after the jump.

For fifty years, the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies has brought together outstanding teachers and intellectually engaged students who share not only a fascination with social science research and theory but also concerns about the pressing social, political, and economic problems facing contemporary societies. Our work is based on free inquiry into the principles of social life. At the heart of the program is a course, Social Studies 10, the very point of which is to introduce students to the widest possible range of ideas that have shaped modern society, and to open minds to the full range of human possibilities. Many of our graduates have gone on to work for social causes around the world, while others have devoted themselves to developing the ideas of freedom and equality that were central to their work as undergraduates. A group of people of this kind cannot harbor within it any form of racial, religious, or other cultural prejudice.

On September 25th, we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Social Studies. From the beginning, the lunch on that day was intended to highlight the contribution made to the program by successive Head Tutors and (as they are now called) Directors of Studies.

Dr. Martin Peretz is one of ten such people, seven of whom we expect will be present at the lunch. They have all been key figures in the program from the point of view of the undergraduates. While they, including Dr. Peretz, will be recognized and have the opportunity to make some brief remarks, we have always intended that the principal speaker at the lunch would be Robert Paul Wolff, the very first Head Tutor.

Separately, a group of Dr. Peretz’s former students and colleagues has organized and donated an Undergraduate Research Fund in his name.

Since this event was originally planned, Dr. Peretz posted statements on his blog which were the diametric opposite of what we in the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies stand for. But in his blog on September 17th, Dr. Peretz apologized. He has also agreed to come to Harvard at a later date and explain his true views to an undergraduate audience.

We will focus the fund that was donated in his name on supporting undergraduates working on research topics which are at the heart of our program, such as the study of intercultural understanding, inequality, and social justice.

We look forward to celebrating the achievements of Social Studies over the last 50 years and to continuing our work exploring with our students the values that guide our research and teaching.

What the demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state means to Palestinians

Sep 22, 2010

Adam Horowitz

Lamis Andoni writes on the Al Jazeera English website:

For if Israel is a Jewish state, in the sense that Jews are the indigenous population, that means the West Bank is not an occupied territory and the Palestinians are there as an accident of history.

The basis of the Palestinian claim to nationhood and independence rests on the fact that Israel was established on Palestinian land. But Israel is demanding that Palestinians not only forget but legitimise their own dispossession by accepting the essentially racist claim that Israel is a Jewish state.

[Avigdor] Lieberman has always managed to strip the sugar-coating off Israeli demands. On Sunday, he again insisted that Palestinian-Israelis should have to prove their loyalty to Israel. His party, Yisrael Beiteinu, has been – so far unsuccessfully – trying to pass a law that would force Palestinian-Israelis to swear an oath of loyalty to Israel.

He cited the examples of Knesset member Haneen Zoabi and Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, as Arabs who should not be in Israel, but could serve in the parliament of Gaza or the PA since they cannot “hold the stick at both sides”.

But Ahmad Tibi, another Arab member of the Knesset, has responded forcefully to Lieberman, who was born in Russia but migrated to Israel in the 1990s. “It is outrageous that a new immigrant who arrived in the late twentieth century wants to expel us, the indigenous people, from our homeland,” Tibi declared. “We have been here long before him, this fascist who came last has to leave and not us.”

Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath has reiterated that Israel’s demand and Lieberman’s statement “are utterly unacceptable”. But it is unlikely that Israel will drop its stipulations now.

As divided as the Palestinians are, they are united in their refusal to deny their very identity and history in their homeland. For if Palestinians accept the Jewishness of Israel there will be nothing left to negotiate over and they will be reduced to simply struggling to improve the conditions of their submission.

Update: “Ros-Lehtinen to introduce resolution urging Palestinian leaders to recognize Israel’s right to exist as Jewish state”

The following is a press release from Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is seeking bipartisan support for a resolution she will introduce later this week reaffirming U.S. support for Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and urging the Palestinian leadership to finally recognize that right. The resolution also calls for full implementation of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, which conditions U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority on, among other things, the PA “publicly acknowledge[ing] the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist.” Ros-Lehtinen’s resolution comes as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) again refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“U.S. law is very clear: the Palestinian Authority must recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, and stop all anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement. Abu Mazen and other Palestinian leaders have been just as clear in their rejection of their obligations to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and to root out violent extremists.

“Israel’s status as a Jewish state is non-negotiable. Make no mistake: When Palestinian leaders refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, they refuse to make a true and lasting peace.

“Middle East peace can only be achieved when Israel’s neighbors demonstrate leadership by foreswearing Israel’s destruction and instead committing to mutual recognition and coexistence.

“The U.S. cannot and must not accept Ramallah’s refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and must, in accordance with U.S. law, insist they meet that very basic benchmark.”

BACKGROUND: In an interview published September 7, 2010 by the Palestinian daily newspaper al-Quds, Abu Mazen expressed “firm rejection of the so-called Jewishness of the state [of Israel],” stating that “This issue is over for us; we have not and will not recognize it.” At the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting on September 12, 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that “we… demand and expect the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state, the State of Israel, as the national state of the Jewish people. This is the true foundation of peace.”

Duss on the Peretz/Thomas double standard

Sep 22, 2010

Adam Horowitz

Matt Duss writing in the Boston Globe:

Last June, veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas was fired for telling Jews to “get the hell out of Palestine.’’ While many were deeply and rightly offended by Thomas’s remarks, it was a sad end to a storied journalism career.

Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post suggested that if “Thomas had said the opposite thing about the Palestinians, she’d still have her job.’’ Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg disagreed. “If you gave this long diatribe about [how] the Palestinians don’t exist, which is sort of the equivalent argument, I don’t think you’re going to last that long in the mainstream press.’’

But recent events allow us to test Goldberg’s hypothesis. Martin Peretz, the longtime owner and editor-in-chief of The New Republic, mused on his blog, The Spine, whether Muslim Americans “are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.’’

Coming under criticism, Peretz backtracked. “I wrote that,’’ he acknowledged, “but I do not believe that.’’ However, Peretz reiterated his equally offensive claim that “Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims,’’ which he called “a statement of fact, not value.’’ Nor did he apologize for writing that the Palestinians are “a fictional people.’’

Over the years, Peretz has regularly denied the existence of Palestinians as a real people with national claims worth acknowledging. For example, he has written:

■ “The defeat of the Arabs of Palestine and the five warrior Arab states in 1948, 1967 and 1973 made a fictional people into a political force. We do not yet know whether this political force will mature into a real people. Or nation. My bet is ‘no.’ ’’

■ “The Palestinians may not be the Palestinian nation. But they are who they are. It is not Washington that makes them fantasists.’’

■ “Only if you are ‘Eyeless in Gaza’ can you believe that these people [the Palestinians] are a ‘nation.’ ’’

Peretz’s writing career has essentially been a series of, to quote Goldberg, “long diatribe[s] about how the Palestinians don’t exist.’’ Yet he continues to receive a special dispensation for these libels, while Thomas received public condemnation and a pink slip for her single denial of Jewish national claims.

Sheikh Bukhary’s wife

Sep 22, 2010

Iris Keltz

I met Hala through mutual friends in New Mexico who asked me to deliver a thank you gift for Sheik Bukhary’s wife. I agreed, before realizing the fleece robe would fill a third of my suitcase. When I phoned, Hala advised me her husband was in Hadassah hospital after suffering a heart attack. I wished him a speedy recovery and resigned myself to mailing the robe. But Hala called later in the week to say her husband was home and and I was welcome to visit. Following a simple hand drawn map, I searched for their home along the Via Dolorosa, jostled by Christian pilgrims from around the world, hungrily soaking up every word from erudite guides. The moment I entered the book-lined room, a sense of calm came over me. Their home, a cultural center for an estimated 3,000 plus Uzbeks living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza was also a library filled with ancient, hand-written Islamic manuscripts. Dressed in a white cotton robe with a white cap on his head, the Sheikh invited me to sit in a comfortable chair near the sofa from which he seemed to be holding court with three modern looking gentlemen. The Sheikh’s face was without lines, a greying beard, the only sign of aging. Without asking to search my shopping bag, the Sheikh offered me a cup of tea, adding in perfect English, “All are welcome here.”

In deference to me, the Turkish visitors and the Sheik spoke English. In a few days, Sheikh Bukhary planned a trip to Turkey with Rabbi Menachem Froman from Tekoa settlement. The two spiritual leaders hoped to present a Mid-East peace plan to the Turkish Prime Minister.

“You look well,” I said. “But I know you’ve just gotten out of the hospital.”

“God is not ready for me– yet.” Two cups of tea loosened my tongue as if it had been wine. I told the gentlemen about my visit to Istanbul years ago– the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and the taste of deep fried fish sandwiches sold off docked boats. “Someday, I want to go sailing along the coast.” I asked if Hala was home and could I meet her.
“Of course. She’s down stairs preparing dinner.” I was permitted to enter their private quarters because I was a woman. A narrow staircase took me into a cozy living room. Hala was wearing capri pants and a light colored blouse, a modern looking woman with a warm smile, perfect teeth a distinguishing mole dotted the side of her nose and a square jaw that made her look strong. Her English, while not as fluent as her husband’s was good enough to hold a conversation. I presented the robe with a sense of relief. “A gift from your friends in New Mexico.”

Women’s talk does not necessarily include defining or solving the problems of the Middle East. I shared photos of my thirteen month old grandson, my ninety-five year old mother and my daughter, the bride, posing in a way too expensive, extravagant white wedding gown. This inspired Hala to bring out her photo album and show me photos of her daughter, posing in a way too expensive, extravagant white wedding gown. We laughed at their similarities. I told Hala how sad it was that my daughter and grandson lived thousands of miles away, assuming hers lived around the corner or in the next village. Palestinian families tended to cluster near each another. Without a trace of self pity, she told me, “My daughter and her husband live in Gaza.”

So near and yet so far away. The smiling bride and groom, dreaming of their future had been caught in the siege that killed at least 1400 people and destroyed thousands of homes. I could not imagine the kind of worry Hala endured, suddenly grateful that my daughter lived in South Florida and not inside the world’s largest open air prison.

“Everyday, we prayed for the safety of our children. We also prayed for the Israelis to understand what they were doing and to stop. Yes, we prayed for the Israelis,” Hala added with emphasis. When I got up to leave, she declared, “You must stay and eat with us.” I apologized, explaining I was going to a farewell dinner at the hotel on the Mount of Olives and promised to come back. Before allowing me to take her photo, Hala put on a robe and hijab, transforming herself into a traditional Muslim looking woman.

The robe that had felt like an albatross had ed me to an oasis of calm in a city that always seemed to be frantically worshipping. But I never made it back to their home. Sheikh Abdul Bukhary died from a final heart attack the day after the Israeli naval commando attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla, where six ships were boarded in international waters, leaving nine activists dead, including one American. He was praised in the Jerusalem Post (June 3) as “a longtime proponent of nonviolence and interfaith unity who found inspiration in Islamic traditions, as well as in the writings of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.”

Israeli friends advised me not to enter the Old City to pay a condolence call on Hala. Major riots were expected in response to the flotilla attack. Local newspapers were filled with articles and editorials condemning and/or justifying the actions. The Israeli embassy in Istanbul reportedly was surrounded by rioters and Turkish Jews were afraid to leave their homes. But in the quiet West Jerusalem neighborhood where I was staying, buses ran as usual and people went about their lives as if nothing extraordinary had happened.

The untimely death of Sheikh Bukary at 61, a man dedicated to religious tolerance and harmony in Jerusalem and is a loss across the world. I emailed Hala the photo I took of her husband smiling on the sofa, but I never got to make that condolence call, a piece of unfinished business in my life.

Iris Keltz is a writer and teacher, living in New Mexico since the late sixties.

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