Peace in our Time?

May 26, 2007

A kind of military coup

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 8:32 am

By Haaretz Editorial

Does Israel still uphold that proper state of affairs in which the elected government sets policy and civil servants carry it out? According to an article published in Haaretz yesterday (“The spirit of the commander prevails” by Meron Rapoport), it seems that with regard to the army, the answer is negative. While ministers speak about a two-state solution, a kind of military coup is taking place in the West Bank, in which the Israel Defense Forces are turning the area into the state of the settlers. While the Palestinian population is being suffocated, the settlements are flourishing.

It does not make much difference whether the Defense Ministry is headed by a civilian minister, because the army has its own agenda, and its subordination to the government is often simulated. For years, Israel was proud of the democratic miracle of an obedient army that did not accumulate too much power and served the elected government loyally, even though the country was engaged in a continual existential war. During the last war, however, cracks appeared in this faith, when it turned out that the cabinet had been dragged into approving military plans that were never even submitted to it. And even worse things happen every day in the occupied territories. Haggai Alon, an adviser to the defense minister who is responsible for the fabric of life in the West Bank, says that the army disregards the government’s diplomatic agenda and essentially serves as the settlers’ army. Or at least, that is how it was throughout Dan Halutz’s tenure as chief of staff.

One shocking example of this democratic crisis is the army’s disregard of court decisions regarding the route of the separation fence. After years of High Court of Justice hearings on every meter of the fence, with the goal of striking a balance between security needs and the needs of Palestinian daily life, it turns out that along Route 317, which links several settlements in the southern Mount Hebron area, the army ignored these decisions and built a mini-fence in addition to the one that was formally approved – and it is located along the original route that the High Court nixed. (more…)


The spirit of the commander prevails

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 8:27 am

Haggai Alon has a bone to pick with the military establishment. He believes the system is calibrated to make the security-fence route more favorable to settlers and to allow them to take over houses in Hebron

By Meron Rapoport

“There is a military policy that is causing the Arab population to leave the center of Hebron. It’s a clear plan, it’s a fact. Everything would be all right if they would say so openly, if our policy were to create Jewish contiguity in Hebron, and the government were to tell the army to do so: We would go to elections over that. But that is not the policy of the State of Israel. The problem is that under military rule the spirit of the commander is stronger than anything else.”

Haggai Alon says these words in the context of his job. In his position as adviser to the defense minister on “fabric of life” issues, Alon visits Hebron with the army, with the Civil Administration, with whoever he has to. As part of his job he sits in on discussions with senior Israel Defense Forces officers, walks around in the area, meets with officers and is supposed to tell them what to do on behalf of his boss, the defense minister.

Here and there he succeeds, he says. The Jordan Valley Highway stopped being a highway for “Israelis only,” the work hours at the Karni crossing were doubled, increasing the amount of goods that pass through – but the overall situation is depressing. The experience Alon has accumulated after a year in the job has taught him that the official policy of the Israeli government is one thing, and the actions of the army on the ground are another, sometimes the opposite. In a disturbing way it is reminiscent of the Winograd Committee, which revealed to us how the General Staff held political discussions, whereas the cabinet discussed where to bomb. The cabinet and the army exchanged roles in Lebanon. According to Alon, the same is true of the West Bank.

Alon, 33, has become a thorn in the side of the defense establishment. (more…)

Throw a pebble at Goliath: don’t buy Israeli produce

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 8:25 am

The ‘boycott movement’ forces the issue of Israel’s disregard of Palestinian human rights into the public arena – where it is too little aired.

Yvonne Roberts
The Guardian: Comment is Free

“The boycott campaign is not really about what happens in the Middle East but about what happens in our unions, on our campuses and in our public discourse. The damage that it does in the UK is that it disables political work in solidarity with those who fight for peace in the Middle East by polarising opinion around an artificial and destructive issue.”

So writes David Hirsh on Comment is free, on the vote next Wednesday at a conference held by the University and College Union (UCU), arguing against what he calls “the boycott movement”.

So the boycott movement allegedly “disables political work in solidarity with those who fight for peace in the Middle East” does it? Is that the same political work that is so highly effective that the only major change since the 1970s, when I regularly reported from the region, is of a profound deterioration in all aspects of life for ordinary Palestinians?

In contributing his blog, David Hirsh ironically illustrates precisely why the boycott movement has an impact. It clears a space in the public arena which, in the UK and the USA, is normally hopelessly biased in favour of Israel – not least because Zionist supporters of Israel in both countries have money and political clout on a scale the Palestinians cannot hope to match.

While we frequently see and hear about the lives of ordinary Israelis, whether illegally settled on the West Bank or endeavouring to live under harrowing rocket bombardment or simply “being” Israelis – when was the last time the reality of day-to-day life in the refugee camps was regularly portrayed? (more…)

Twilight Zone / Cry, the beloved country

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 8:19 am

By Gideon Levy

PRETORIA, South Africa – It was like being in the movies. Only there would you see an inert photo suddenly come to life. We were standing at the memorial museum in Soweto, next to a photo of a dead boy with other children around him, and our guide Antoinette was telling us about it. Antoinette said that the young girl in the picture was her.

The photo is at the entrance of the museum, built to commemorate the blacks’ struggle against apartheid, which began here. Across the way is Nelson Mandela’s tiny hut, nearby is the house of Desmond Tutu and down the street is the present home of Winnie Mandela.

The picture was stunningly familiar to us. We were four: MK Ran Cohen (Meretz); Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations; Diana Buttu, a former legal advisor to the PLO; and myself. We were all making the same associations: Hector is Mohammed al-Dura; the white soldiers shooting at children are us.

The passage of time was evident with Antoinette. The teenager in the picture was now a woman in her late forties. Her brother would have been 44, but a bullet from the rifle of a white policeman deprived him of the chance to witness the miracle of how the cruel racist regime collapsed.

It was another UN conference about peace with the Palestinians, but this time it was being held in a particularly “loaded” location. We were only two Israelis there, but the calling cards I collected were quite varied: Arab and African ambassadors, the previous Egyptian foreign minister, representatives of Muslim countries and diplomats posted in Pretoria. The Syrian ambassador smiled and did not offer his card; the Libyan ambassador did the same. But they listened to us attentively. (more…)

May 25, 2007

It is not only God that will be Blair’s judge over Iraq

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 8:32 pm

His cravenly pro-US policy on the Middle East misunderstood Bush’s real agenda and resulted in catastrophic failure

Avi Shlaim
Monday May 14, 2007
The Guardian

Tony Blair’s opposition to an immediate ceasefire in the Lebanon war last summer precipitated his downfall. Now that he has announced the date of his departure from Downing Street, his entire Middle East record needs to be placed under an uncompromising lens.

Blair came to office with no experience of, and virtually no interest in, foreign affairs, and ended by taking this country to war five times. Blair boasts that his foreign policy was guided by the doctrine of liberal interventionism. But the war in Iraq is the antithesis of liberal intervention. It is an illegal, immoral and unnecessary war, a war undertaken on a false prospectus and without sanction from the UN.

Blair’s entire record in the Middle East is one of catastrophic failure. He used to portray Britain as a bridge between the two sides of the Atlantic. By siding with America against Europe on Iraq, however, he helped to destroy the bridge. Preserving the special relationship with America was the be all and end all of Blair’s foreign policy. He presumably supported the Bush administration over Iraq in the hope of exercising influence on its policy. Yet there is no evidence that he exercised influence on any significant policy issue. His support for the neoconservative agenda on Iraq was uncritical and unconditional.

Blair failed to understand that America’s really special relationship is with Israel, not Britain. Every time that George Bush had to choose between Blair and Ariel Sharon, he chose the latter. Blair’s special relationship with Bush was a one-way street: Blair made all the concessions and got nothing tangible in return.

American policy towards the Middle East was doomed to failure from the start, and the end result has been to saddle Britain with a share of the responsibility for this failure. The premise behind American policy was that Iraq was the main issue in Middle East politics and that regime change in Baghdad would weaken the Palestinians and force them to accept a settlement on Israel’s terms. The road to Jerusalem, it was argued, went through Baghdad. This premise was wrong. (more…)

May 24, 2007

Imprisoning a whole nation

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 6:42 am

by John Pilger

22 May 2007

In an article for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes how Gaza in Palestine has come to symbolise the imposition of great power on the powerless, in the Middle East and all over the world, and how a vocabulary of double standard is employed to justify this epic tragedy.

Israel is destroying any notion of a state of Palestine and is being allowed to imprison an entire nation. That is clear from the latest attacks on Gaza, whose suffering has become a metaphor for the tragedy imposed on the peoples of the Middle East and beyond. These attacks, reported on Britain’s Channel 4 News, were “targeting key militants of Hamas” and the “Hamas infrastructure”. The BBC described a “clash” between the same militants and Israeli F-16 aircraft.

Consider one such clash. The militants’ car was blown to pieces by a missile from a fighter-bomber. Who were these militants? In my experience, all the people of Gaza are militant in their resistance to their jailer and tormentor. As for the “Hamas infrastructure”, this was the headquarters of the party that won last year’s democratic elections in Palestine. To report that would give the wrong impression. It would suggest that the people in the car and all the others over the years, the babies and the elderly who have also “clashed” with fighter-bombers, were victims of a monstrous injustice. It would suggest the truth.

“Some say,” said the Channel 4 reporter, that “Hamas has courted this [attack]…” Perhaps he was referring to the rockets fired at Israel from within the prison of Gaza which killed no one. Under international law an occupied people has the right to use arms against the occupier’s forces. This right is never reported. The Channel 4 reporter referred to an “endless war”, suggesting equivalents. There is no war. There is resistance among the poorest, most vulnerable people on earth to an enduring, illegal occupation imposed by the world’s fourth largest military power, whose weapons of mass destruction range from cluster bombs to thermonuclear devices, bankrolled by the superpower. In the past six years alone, wrote the historian Ilan Pappe, “Israeli forces have killed more than 4,000 Palestinians, half of them children”.

Consider how this power works. According to documents obtained by United Press International, the Israelis once secretly funded Hamas as “a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO [Palestine Liberation Organisation] by using a competing religious alternative”, in the words of a former CIA official.

Today, Israel and the US have reversed this ploy and openly back Hamas’s rival, Fatah, with bribes of millions of dollars. Israel recently secretly allowed 500 Fatah fighters to cross into Gaza from Egypt, where they had been trained by another American client, the Cairo dictatorship. The Israelis’ aim is to undermine the elected Palestinian government and ignite a civil war. They have not quite succeeded. (more…)

May 23, 2007

Israeli Riddle: Love Jerusalem, Hate Living There

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 10:22 pm

GREG MYRE, The New York Times, May 13, 2007

JERUSALEM — ISRAEL is facing a challenge it never expected when it captured East Jerusalem and reunited the city in the 1967 war: each year, Jerusalem’s population is becoming more Arab and less Jewish.

For four decades, Israel has pushed to build and expand Jewish neighborhoods, while trying to restrict the growth in Arab parts of the city. Yet two trends are unchanged: Jews moving out of Jerusalem have outnumbered those moving in for 27 of the last 29 years. And the Palestinian growth rate has been high.

In a 1967 census taken shortly after the war, the population of Jerusalem was 74 percent Jewish and 26 percent Arab. Today, the city is 66 percent Jewish and 34 percent Arab, with the gap narrowing by about 1 percentage point a year, according to the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. (more…)

May 15, 2007

NYTimes: Red Cross Report Says Israel Disregards Humanitarian Law

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 7:37 pm

May 15, 2007


JERUSALEM, May 14 — The International Committee of the Red Cross, in a confidential report about East Jerusalem and its surrounding areas, accuses Israel of a “general disregard” for “its obligations under international humanitarian law — and the law of occupation in particular.”

The committee, which does not accept Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, says Israel is using its rights as an occupying power under international law “in order to further its own interests or those of its own population to the detriment of the population of the occupied territory.”

With the construction of the separation barrier, the establishment of an outer ring of Jewish settlements beyond the expanded municipal boundaries and the creation of a dense road network linking the different Israeli neighborhoods and settlements in and outside Jerusalem, the report says, Israel is “reshaping the development of the Jerusalem metropolitan area” with “far-reaching humanitarian consequences.” Those include the increasing isolation of Palestinians living in Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and the increasing difficulty for some Palestinians to easily reach Jerusalem’s schools and hospitals. (more…)

May 10, 2007

Top Bush Adviser Says Rice’s Push For Mideast Peace Is ‘Just Process’

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 11:31 pm

Nathan Guttman
The Forward | Fri. May 11, 2007

Washington – As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presses Israelis and Palestinians to meet a new set of policy benchmarks, the White House is reassuring Jewish groups and conservatives that the president has no plans to pressure Jerusalem.

Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams told a group of Jewish communal leaders last week that the president would ensure that the process does not lead to Israel being pushed into an agreement with which it is uncomfortable.

Also last week, at a regular gathering of Jewish Republicans, sources said, Abrams described President Bush as an “emergency brake” who would prevent Israel from being pressed into a deal; during the breakfast gathering, the White House official also said that a lot of what is done during Rice’s frequent trips to the region is “just process” — steps needed in order to keep the Europeans and moderate Arab countries “on the team” and to make sure they feel that the United States is promoting peace in the Middle East.

According to one of the participants in the meeting of Jewish Republicans, Abrams said that he does not believe that the United States can make much progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front. (more…)

World Bank: Sustainable Palestinian economic recovery impossible under West Bank restriction system

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 11:18 pm

JERUSALEM, May 9 2007 – As part of its ongoing analytical work on Palestinian trade facilitation and economic revival, the World Bank released its latest report today, entitled Movement and Access Restrictions in the West Bank: Uncertainty and Inefficiency in the Palestinian Economy. 

While acknowledging Israel’s legitimate security concerns, the report examines the wider context and implications of the current access situation in the West Bank. It notes that although physical impediments are the visible manifestations of closure, the means of curtailing Palestinian movement and access are far more complex and are based on a set of administrative practices and permit policies. The resulting system, while enhancing Israeli security, is also aimed at protecting and enhancing the free movement of settlers and the physical and economic expansion of the settlements at the expense of the Palestinian population.  In particular, the routing of the separation barrier, the system of restricted West Bank roads, the control of the Palestinian population registry and restrictive zoning and land use rules and practices are aimed primarily at serving the settler population.

Drawing on extensive work undertaken by UN OCHA and others, the Bank report notes that the restriction system has fragmented the West Bank into 10 economically isolated cantons, severed Palestinian economic, social and physical links to Jerusalem and denied Palestinians access to some 50% of West Bank land for economic purposes.   

According to David Craig, World Bank Country Director for the West Bank and Gaza, this has devastated the Palestinian economy. “The restriction system has caused a rise in transaction costs, making Palestinian goods increasingly uncompetitive. Even more importantly, the system has created such a high level of uncertainty and inefficiency that the normal conduct of business in the West Bank has become exceedingly difficult and investment has been stymied,” he said. 

“Palestinian economic revival is predicated on an integrated economic entity with freedom of movement between the West bank and Gaza and within the West Bank, unfettered Palestinian access to West Bank land for economic purposes, and reliable access to world markets,” Craig added. “The restriction system has significantly undermined these conditions. Restoring sustainable Palestinian economic growth is dependent on its dismantling.” 

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