So Sorry, but could find nothing particularly happy to send you today. Just 3 items—all from Haaretz. The tidings are not encouraging. The initial item, an editorial, reports on the “silent expulsion.”
In the 2nd item, Akiva Eldar asks a question that I often posit to audiences, when speaking abroad, in response to those who query “Do the Arabs really want peace?”
“After 8 years, why hasn’t Israel responded to the Arab peace initiative?”—an initiative which would have given Israel full recognition by all the Arab states, and more: total normalization in relations (including diplomatic relations). Israel, in return, would have had to recognize the “Green Line” –the 1949 Armistice line, which was the ‘border’ until 1967 when Israel conquered Egypt and Jordan and took over Gaza and the West Bank. Since then, there has been no border recognized by Israel between Israel and the West Bank. The Arab peace proposal does not even demand the return of the refugees. Yet Israel refused in when first offered in 2002 and again the 2nd time in 2007. Why? Apparently colonialism and expansion are more important to Israeli leadership than peace, prosperity, and saving lives.
Amira Hass in the 3rd item explains why the so-called ‘easing’ of Israel’s siege on Gaza might not in any way improve conditions there. But, of course, easing the siege makes good publicity and improves Israel’s image without it costing Israel a penny. Besides, Israel’s traders and industrialists and farmers will profit from the one-way traffic, while the Gazan receivers of goods will not.
Citizens of Israel can leave the country for any length of time, and their citizenship and all their rights are theirs in perpetuity. But when it comes to Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, Israel applies draconian regulations whose covert intent is to bring about the expulsion of as many Palestinians as possible from their home city.
Haaretz Editorial Dr. Immad Hammada and Dr. Murad Abu-Khalaf are both lecturers in electrical engineering born in East Jerusalem. Their families have lived in the city for generations. They both left years ago, each one separately, to study in the United States, and after graduating and consolidating their careers they want to return to live in their home town.
But their right to be reunified with their families is being denied by the Interior Ministry, as Amira Hass reported in Sunday’s Haaretz. Hammada has been living in his city for some three years illegally, without any rights and under constant danger of being arrested and deported, while Abu-Khalaf is finding it difficult to return, even for a visit.
Judge Noam Sohlberg of Jerusalem District Court is hearing their cases against the ministry this week.
Interior Ministry regulations provide for the abrogation of the rights of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem who leave the city for a period of over seven years. Citizens of Israel can leave the country for any length of time, and their citizenship and all their rights are theirs in perpetuity. But when it comes to Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, Israel applies draconian regulations whose covert intent is to bring about the expulsion of as many Palestinians as possible from their home city.
This situation is intolerable: At a time when the prime minister speaks grandiloquently of the reunification of Jerusalem, Israel practices inequality and discriminates against the city’s Arab residents. At a time when Benjamin Netanyahu speaks of the economic advancement of the territories, Israel prevents the Arab residents of East Jerusalem from advancing their careers abroad and returning afterward to their home city to contribute toward the development of its economy. The screws have been tightened in recent years: In 2008 the residents’ rights of 4,557 Palestinian inhabitants of the city were abrogated, the highest number ever.
Waiting on Judge Sohlberg now is not only the fate of two electrical engineering lecturers, but a far weightier question: Will Israel continue treating the Palestinian inhabitants of its capital as if they were foreign migrants whose rights are conditional?
The rights of the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem must be equal to those of Jews. All Jerusalemites have the right to live in their city, to go abroad and return as they will, without any danger posed by the authorities lying in wait for them.
This story is by:
Haaretz Tuesday, June 22, 2010
After 8 years, why hasn’t Israel responded to the Arab peace initiative?
Few Israelis know what is written in the first pan-Arabic and pan-Islamic document that proposes recognizing Israel and exchanging hostile relations for normalization.
Tags: Middle East peace Palestinians Arab peace initiative Israel news What would we say if the Arabs were to ignore an Israeli peace initiative for more than eight years? What would we write if, during all this time, the Palestinian leadership were not to have even one discussion about our initiative? How many Israelis, including learned members of the academic world, know what is written in the first pan-Arabic and pan-Islamic document that proposes recognizing Israel and exchanging hostile relations for normalization?
Prof. Yoram Meital, the head of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who this week opened a comprehensive conference at the university on the initiative and its political and environmental implications, said that this was the only international conference that Israeli academia had held so far about the Arab peace plan.
For the first time, representatives from the West Bank, Egypt, and Jordan sat at a round table along with their Israeli colleagues and spoke about the nature of the peace initiative. It was obvious that the guests from Bethlehem University, from the Egyptian media and the University of Amman had come to Be’er Sheva to try and figure out why the Jews, who are considered clever people, (no one bothered to deny this ) are missing a rare opportunity to put an end to their exhausting conflict and at the same time to annoy Hezbollah and isolate Iran.
The Madrid Coalition for promoting the Arab plan recently held a meeting in Antalya (before the flotilla incident ) which included representatives from Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. Prof. Elie Podeh of Hebrew University in Jerusalem was there together with MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima ).
Podeh said Sheetrit, who has supported the initiative almost from day one, has not been able to convince his colleagues in the party to adopt it as the basis for negotiations with our neighbors. Cabinet Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor ) last week called on the his faction in the Knesset to demand of the prime minister that Israel be prepared to begin direct negotiations with the Arabs on the basis of the initiative.
Journalist Samir Ratas, a Palestinian who now lives in Egypt, brought a message to Israel at the conference: “The peace initiative is not an Arab plot to destroy Israel nor is it an ambush. Many years ago, the Arabs recognized your existence.” Ratas departed with two questions in mind: “How many more years will we have to wait until you understand that this initiative is a strategic choice?” And “How many years do you think that it will wait for you?”
The item that was quarantined
The item was broadcast once only. That was on Sunday, May 30, at one in the afternoon, a few hours before the raid on the Turkish ship “Mavi Marmara.” The news broadcast on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet stated that a number of hospitals reported they had been instructed not to give any information to the media in the event that wounded were brought to them after the flotilla was blocked from entering Israel’s territorial waters. It is not clear why the news item was not mentioned in subsequent broadcasts nor why it did not appear in any other media.
It is clear that among those who were involved in planning the campaign, there were people who were not surprised by the welcome the Israeli soldiers received on board the vessel. For the Turkel committee’s information.
Gossip about Taglit
Last week I took a night train from Ben-Gurion International Airport and I unintentionally became party to a secret about the Taglit-Birthright Israel campaign, that large project that brings tens of thousands of Jewish students from across the globe to Israel. A group of men and women soldiers who had just bade farewell to the students from the Diaspora were discussing excitedly (and at the top of their voices ) how they had spent the last few days in their company.
One of them spoke about a weird Jewish girl who wakes up in the morning and takes an energy pill and later goes to sleep with another pill, this one against depression. Another spoke of a student who one happy night managed to down a dozen bottles of beer
A cheerful girl soldier reported that she had managed to knock the hell out of an American student who said that if an Israeli soldier had been killed on the Turkish ship, “this would have helped Israel’s PR.”
Her colleague added another bit of information about a student “whose mother isn’t Jewish at all and whose father is also not really attached to Judaism and who said he had come here just for the trip.”
On the other hand, another student had said that she had already decided (after 10 days in Israel ) that she would immigrate here. The soldiers all agreed that the meeting with the young Americans had been interesting.
It is obvious that this is not a representative sample of the profile of the 230,000 youngsters from 52 countries (the project was the initiative of Yossi Beilin ) that Taglit-Birthright Israel has brought here over the years.
Thousands of them now live in Israel. The project’s Internet site states that Taglit-Birthright Israel sets up the infrastructure for ambassadors for Israel in the world; that it brings tens of thousands of Jewish students who are cut off from Judaism and Israel for a first educational tour of the land, strengthens their Jewish identity and sends young blood to the Jewish communities in the Diaspora.
Birthright Israel has increased the number of students who come here by 2,000 percent in a short period.
A research team from Brandeis University in Massachusetts found that 64 percent of the graduates of the program feel very attached to their Judaism in the wake of the tour (as compared with 38 percent who felt that way before the tour ) and 55 percent feel very attached to Israel in the wake of the visit (as compared with 22 percent who felt that way before they came). It would be interesting to examine the extent of their connection with Israel and Judaism in another 10 years.
This story is by:
Haaretz Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Amira Hass / Easing of siege may have negligible effect on Gaza
‘During the past three years I lost all that my father managed to build in 50 years, this is the story of all Gazans.’
Tags: Gaza Palestinians Israel news ‘Ketchup won’t bring about the change we want’
The decisions of the Israeli government regarding the easing of the siege on the Gaza Strip were not felt on the ground the day after the decision. The economist Muhammed Skaik, trade officer at the Gaza branch of the Palestinian trade center Paltrade, told Haaretz that improvement and change depend on a number of factors and cannot be measured only by the increase in the number of items permitted to be brought into the Strip.
“Since January this year,” he said, “Israel has added every month or two about 10 items to the list of permitted items. But ketchup, snacks and mayonnaise, for example, which are now permitted, are not essential items that will genuinely change the situation.”
Even if Israel announces tomorrow that it is adding 500 items to the list of what is allowed into the Strip, Skaik said, “we need time in order to assess the change – perhaps a month or two. The market is still full of items brought through the tunnels and it is possible that merchants will not immediately order ‘permitted’ items from Israel – because there are similar items from Egypt.”
From the government’s announcement it is still unclear what kinds and amounts of raw materials for production and construction will be allowed, Skaik says. “If construction materials are allowed in, change will be felt quickly. But if the change focuses only on secondary consumer goods, it will have no effect.”
Attorney Sari Bashi, director of the NGO Gisha that closely follows the restrictions on the freedom of movement of persons and goods, says that as far as is known, the “easing” has not included construction materials or raw materials.
“Continuing the restrictions on the ability to produce will also limit the [Palestinians] buying power,” she said.
Another unanswered question is whether Israel intends to allow the export of goods produced by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, Skaik said. “Even if it allows into the Strip certain raw materials [for example for the textile industry that was always very developed in the Strip, until it was shut down three years ago], there is no point in ordering them if they will not be able to market their products like they did in the past [to Israel and the West Bank].”
In other words, it is possible that the producers will fear investing in the purchase of raw materials if selling outside the Strip is not guaranteed. This is true for the furniture industry and the food and agriculture industries.
Bashi says that if there is no promise of marketing outside the Strip, profitability will be low, which will affect the willingness and ability of producers to hire workers. Without employment the workers will not be able to acquire purchasing power. “Without an increase in buying power in the Strip there is no point in increasing the number of items on the list, because the merchants will not order more goods if they know that the people are unable to buy them.”
There is also the question of whether it will be permitted to import spare parts for machines that broke down because they have been left derelict for so long.
A third unclear variable is the border crossings. “Without the opening of all the crossings, without expanding their hours of operation, there will be little impact on the decision to expand the list [of permissible items],” Skaik said.
“During the past three years I lost all that my father had managed to build in 50 years,” said Fuad Juda, who owns a textile factory his father established in 1960. “This is the story of everyone, not only my story,” he told Haaretz.