Peace in our Time?

September 25, 2007

Disrupting the separation policy

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 11:45 am

By Amira Hass

A woman chatting idly in Ramallah on Sunday said dismissively: “The High Court of Justice’s decision to move the separation fence in Bil’in proves nothing about the effectiveness of the popular Palestinian-Israeli struggle. Israel needs it to portray itself as a democracy.”

Her frustration is understandable. The lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians are disrupted by a fence whose route elsewhere is no less “disproportionate” than it was in Bil’in. After two and a half years of weekly demonstrations by Palestinians, left-wing Israelis and foreign activists – demonstrations that were brutally dispersed, with numerous protesters being injured or arrested – the fence was moved a mere 1.7 kilometers. And the same High Court that moved the fence also legitimized the Jewish neighborhood that had already been built on Bil’in’s private land.

The gap between the huge effort and the meager results is characteristic of the activities of all Israeli groups that work against the occupation. Last Friday morning, the eve of Yom Kippur, Machsom Watch activists had to spend hours making frantic telephone calls and using their connections with high-ranking officials to enable three sick people to traverse the Qalandiyah checkpoint and reach Jerusalem for urgent treatment. Media reports had promised that despite the hermetic closure, humanitarian cases would be allowed through the checkpoints, but by noon, most of those cases had given up and returned home.

In other cases, Machsom Watch’s female volunteers try to alert commanders when soldiers are harassing people passing through the checkpoints. Months of correspondence and requests, reports in Haaretz and monitoring by B’Tselem resulted in two commanders being removed from the Taysir checkpoint. This did not stop a soldier from harassing people at that checkpoint a few months later, nor did it prevent similar abusive conduct at other checkpoints. Needless to say, the checkpoint and roadblock policy continues, despite the reek of apartheid it emits.

But those frustrated by the limited impact of Israeli anti-occupation activity are ignoring two of its salient characteristics. First, by helping to return one dunam of land to one individual, enabling farmers to complete an olive harvest without harassment and attacks by settlers, shortening the waiting time at a checkpoint or releasing a patient or a minor from detention without trial, life is made a bit less difficult for particular individuals at a given moment. This results from the activity of people who, by exploiting their immunity as Jewish Israelis, challenge the occupation bureaucracy.

Moreover, this immediate personal relief is interwoven into a more fundamental, longer-term Israeli-Palestinian struggle against the occupation. Since the 1990s, Israel has endeavored to separate the two peoples. It has restricted opportunities to meet and get to know one another outside the master-serf framework, VIP meetings or luxurious overseas peace showcases from which the term “occupation” is completely absent.

Because of this separation, the Palestinians know only settlers and soldiers – in other words, only those whose conduct and roles in the system justify the Palestinians’ conclusion that it is impossible to reach a just agreement and peace with Israel. This separation also reinforces Israelis’ racist – or at best, patronizing – attitudes toward the Palestinians.

The anarchists, Machsom Watch, Yesh Din, Rabbis for Human Rights, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Physicians for Human Rights and other activist groups – few as their members may be – disrupt the separation policy and its ills. They remind the Palestinians that there are other Israelis, so perhaps there is still hope. And in their immediate environment, they expose Israelis to facts and experiences that make it difficult for them to keep wallowing in their voluntary ignorance and disregarding the dangers that our oppressive regime poses over the Palestinians.

www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=906923

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The Tide is Turning

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 5:51 am

Opinion/Editorial
The tide is turning
Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, The Electronic Intifada, Sep 24, 2007

Israelis and Palestinians protest in Tel Aviv against Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, 5 August 2006. (Matthew Cassel)

The years 2007 and 2008 are landmark ones for those campaigning against occupation and for the Palestinian right to self-determination. Forty years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was nonviolently marked around the world in June; next year, peaceful demonstrations will observe the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel during which approximately 700,000 Palestinians were forced from or fled their land — an event that Palestinians call the Nakba, or “catastrophe.”

Next year’s worldwide campaigns will reinforce grassroots initiatives, reaffirm the numerous UN resolutions which reaffirm the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, and call for the establishment of civil society networks.

As for Israeli civilians, since 1967, as many as one million have voted with their feet and left Israel, and some say the rate of those refusing to serve in the Israeli army is as high as 50 percent and that 30 percent of Israeli pilots refuse to bomb the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This occupation is unsustainable and Israeli civilians are losing faith in militarism. It has to end, and we must work out viable alternatives for living together peacefully, in full recognition of our mutual rights, not least the fundamental human right to self-determination.

Central issues such as acknowledgment by Israel of responsibility for the refugees must be addressed. Not least for the sake of Israeli “closure” and an end to the exceptional nature of Israel, which prevents it from participating as a normal state in this Parliament of Man, which is the UN.

Regarding Israel’s cozy relationship with the US, which just announced a $30 billion military aid package for Israel, journalist and filmmaker John Pilger recently observed, “No other country on earth enjoys such immunity, allowing it to act without sanction, as Israel. No other country has such a record of lawlessness: not one of the world’s tyrannies comes close. International treaties, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified by Iran, are ignored by Israel. There is nothing like it in UN history.”

In fact, in direct negation of UN recognition of Israeli statehood, Israel has ignored over 60 UN Security Council resolutions.

However, as Pilger also points out, the tide is turning. “The swell of a boycott is growing inexorably, as if an important marker has been passed, reminiscent of the boycotts that led to sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Both Mandela and Desmond Tutu have drawn this parallel; so have South African cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils and other illustrious Jewish members of the liberation struggle.”

In Palestine this year, Kasrils said the situation there is 100 times worse than it was in apartheid South Africa. UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, and (in a parliamentary debate) British Member of Parliament Clare Short, have both said that human rights conditions in the EU trade agreement should be invoked and Israel’s trading preferences suspended. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, John Dugard, speaks of crimes against humanity, as the occupation is characterized by elements of colonialism and apartheid.

After five years of working with diplomats, politicians and aid workers in Israel and Palestine, I see on an individual basis enormous personal support and empathy for the Palestinian cause because the picture of injustice is clear. But we stand at the edge of a dangerous chasm, a widening gulf between realpolitik and policies of peace and democracy.

To compel diplomats or politicians to change policy, we must build grassroots movements like the anti-apartheid movement in the ’80s or civil rights in the ’60s.

In Palestine there are daily home demolitions, arrests, settler violence, the building of the wall on Palestinian land, expropriations, tree uprootings, detentions, closures, checkpoints and military raids. Israeli society is dysfunctional, and Palestinian society powerlessly disenfranchised, so outside help and solidarity are vital. Only this will send the message to Israel and its sponsor the United States that the crimes of occupation are intolerable and must end.

For the sake of both Israel and the Palestinians, we must save Israel from itself. Living in South Africa under apartheid, I saw boycott efforts encourage public awareness, apply pressure and state disapproval for the government’s racist policies. Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has said boycotts “will not change positions in a day, but they will send a clear message to the Israeli public that these positions are racist and unacceptable … They would have to choose.”

We must halt the Israeli government’s suicidal policies. This means lobbying those in power (especially in Washington, but also Europe) and insisting they visit Palestine with critical guides to see what’s really going on.

The Israeli government and the neoconservative Bush administration are not acting for peace and it’s up to us as citizens of the world to voice our disapproval. We are fighting a spiritual battle that we shall, insha’allah, eventually win. Together.

Angela Godfrey-Goldstein is Action Advocacy Officer of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, a peace and human rights organization based in Jerusalem.

This commentary is adapted from a speech given by the author at the EU Parliament on 30 August 2007 at a United Nations civil society conference for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

September 23, 2007

Carter Centre Press Release: Prospects Dim for Middle East Peace

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 3:06 pm

Israeli Actions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank:
Prospects Dim for Middle East Peace

21 September 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In a statement issued today (see below): The Carter Center deplores the decision taken Wednesday by Israel to declare the Gaza Strip a hostile territory and its threat to cut off provision of essential services such as electricity and fuel to the civilian population. The Center strongly believes that such actions would defy Israel’s obligations toward the civilian population under international humanitarian and human rights laws, and urges Israel to rescind this decision.

While The Carter Center recognizes Israel’s right to defend its citizens and condemns the continued indiscriminate firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip, as an occupying power, Israel is expressly prohibited under international law from collectively punishing the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, Israel is obligated to “take all the measures in [its] power” to ensure public order and civil life of the Palestinian civilian population. Israeli threats to cut off the supply of electricity and fuel to Gaza contradict these legal obligations and would have devastating humanitarian consequences.

“The people of Gaza have been reduced to conditions of poverty, malnutrition, and imprisonment that should be considered totally unacceptable by the civilized world,” said Carter Center Field Office Director Scott Custer. “The deliberate Israeli policy to reduce the Palestinians to penury does not meet the standards required by international humanitarian and human rights law of Israel as an occupying power.”

The latest crisis in Gaza underscores the escalating costs of failing even to seek a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. A peaceful solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict will only be possible if all Palestinians unite behind a single peace initiative. The Carter Center calls on the two major parties, Fateh and Hamas, to repair the breach that occurred with Hamas’ illegal takeover of the Gaza Strip. At the same time, The Carter Center calls on the international community to support efforts for national reconciliation. The Carter Center believes that the forthcoming international meeting in Washington D.C. ultimately will be successful only if a strong majority of the Palestinian people supports the outcome and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are reunited under a single governmental authority.

Finally, The Carter Center calls for renewed attention to the greatest obstacle to a viable two state solution, namely continued expansion and consolidation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, protected by increasing internal checkpoints and the encroachment of a separation barrier. The infrastructure of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is fast becoming permanent, making a two-state solution and viable independent state in Palestine nearly impossible. As U.S. government aid is needed for Israel to continue the expansion of settlements and related infrastructure projects, it bears a special responsibility for undermining the prospects of lasting peace.

The Carter Center reopened its field office in May 2007 in the Palestinian territories in support of peace for Israel, justice for the Palestinians, and the emergence of a viable, democratic Palestinian state. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter led missions to observe Palestinian elections held in 1996, 2005, and 2006.

The Carter Center long has been committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinian people and the advancement of democracy and human rights in Palestine. The Center maintains a field presence to closely monitor political developments on the ground, publish periodic reports on critical issues of democratic development in the territories, and work with local partners on human rights and democracy activities.

Scott Custer, Carter Center Ramallah field office director, is formerly chief of the International Law Division, at the U.N. Relief and Works Agency Headquarters in Gaza.

September 22, 2007

None Dare Call It Genocide

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 10:20 pm

by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

How comfy we are all in the United States, as we engage in living-room debates about the US occupation of Iraq, whether “we” are bringing them freedom and whether their freedom is really worth the sacrifice of so many of our men and women. We talk about whether war aims have really been achieved, how to exit gracefully, or whether we need a hyper-surge to finish this whole business once and for all.

But there’s one thing Americans don’t talk about: the lives of Iraqis, or, rather, the deaths of Iraqis. It’s interesting because we live in an age of extreme multiculturalism and global concern. We adore international aid workers, go on mission trips abroad, weep for the plight of those suffering from hunger and disease, volunteer in efforts to bring plumbing to Ecuador, mosquito nets to Rwanda, clean water to Malawi, human rights to Togo, and medicine to Bangladesh.

But when “we” cause the calamity, suddenly there is silence. There is something odd, suspicious, even disloyal about a person who would harp on the deaths of Iraqis since the US invasion in 2003. Maybe a person who would weep for Iraq is really a terrorist sympathizer. After all, most of the deaths resulted from “sectarian violence,” and who can stop crazed Islamic sects from killing each other. Better each other than us, right?

Well, it’s about time that we think about the numbers, even though the US military has decided that body counts are not worth their time. Opinion Research Business, a highly reputable polling firm in the UK, has just completed a detailed and rigorous survey of Iraqis. In the past, the company’s results have been touted by the Bush administration whenever the data looks favorable to the US cause. But their latest report received virtually no attention in the US.

Here is the grisly bottom line: more than one million people have been murdered in Iraq since the US invasion, according to the ORB. Yes, other estimates are lower, but you have to be impressed by what they have found. It seems very credible.

In Baghdad, where the US presence is most pronounced, nearly half of households report having lost a family member to a killing of some sort. Half the deaths are from gunshot wounds, one-fifth from car bombs, and one-tenth from aerial bombs. The total number of dead exceeds the hugely well-publicized Rwandan genocide in 1994.

You are welcome to inspect the detailed data.

Aside from the astonishing detail, what jumps out at me is the number of dead who are neither Sunni nor Shia. It is also striking how the further geographically you move from US troop activity, the more peaceful the area is. Americans think they are bringing freedom to Iraq, but the data indicate that we are only bringing suffering and death.

If you have ever lost a family member, you know that life is never the same again. It causes every manner of religious, social, and marital trauma. It’s bad enough to lose a family member to some disease. But to a cold-blooded killing or a car bomb or an airplane bomb? That instills a sense of fury and motivation to retribution.

So we are speaking of some 1.2 million people who have been killed in this way, and that does not count the numbers that were killed during the invasion itself for the crime of having attempted to oppose invading foreign troops, or the 500,000 children and old people killed by the US-UN anti-civilian sanctions in the 10 previous years.

And let’s not flatter ourselves into thinking that these are nothing but ragheads killing each other for no good reason. Just this past weekend, there is an example in point. Some of the legendary contractors for the State Department were driving through the Sunni neighborhood of Mansour in Baghdad. They were driving their SUVs when witnesses reported an explosion of fire that lasted 20 minutes. The SUVs drove off, leaving at least nine people dead on the road. Why? No one knows. Sure there will be investigations. There have already been apologies. The company in question has had its license to practice occupation revoked by the Iraqi government. For how long, no one knows. But these are merely symbolic gestures. There will be no justice, and no forgetting.

To the extent anyone pays attention to this stuff, they only hear the words of the State Department spokesman: “The bottom line is that the secretary wants to make sure that we do everything we possibly can to avoid the loss of innocent life.”

In light of the one million plus figure, such statements come off as evil jokes. The US has unleashed bloodshed in Iraq that is rarely known even in countries we think of as violent and torn by civil strife. It is amazing to think that this has occurred in what was only recently a liberal and civilized country by the region’s standards. This was a country that had a problem with immigration, particularly among the well-educated and talented classes. They went to Iraq because it was the closest Arab proxy to Western-style society that one could find in the area.

It was the US that turned this country into a killing field. Why won’t we face this? Why won’t we take responsibility? The reason has to do with this mysterious thing called nationalism, which makes an ideological religion of the nation’s wars. We are god-like liberators. They are devil-like terrorists. No amount of data or contrary information seems to make a dent in this irreligious faith. So it is in every country and in all times. Here is the intellectual blindness that war generates.

Such blindness is always inexcusable, but perhaps more understandable in a time when information was severely restricted, when technological limits actually prohibited us from knowing the whole truth at the time. What excuse do we have today? Our blindness is not technological but ideological. We are the good guys, right? Every nation believes that about itself, but freedom is well served by the few who dare to think critically.

An essential postulate of the Western idea, or so we tell ourselves, is the universal and ultimate value of human life. And indeed it is true. No person or group of people is without value – not even those whom our own government chooses to label the enemy.

September 18, 2007

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail] is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, editor of LewRockwell.com, and author of Speaking of Liberty.

Copyright © 2007 LewRockwell.com
Lew Rockwell Archives

September 15, 2007

Paper delivered at UN Conference at the EU Parliament, Brussels on 30th August 2007

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 2:42 pm

  FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE OCCUPATION:  BUILDING ON ACTION TAKEN BY CIVIL SOCIETY & MOVING FORWARD; CONNECTING WITH WORLDWIDE PEACE & SOCIAL MOVEMENTS

Angela Godfrey-Goldstein

This year and next are landmarks for Israelis, Palestinians and internationals campaigning against Occupation, advocating for a viable, sovereign Palestinian state, at peace with Israel, or other options if a viable 2-state option (as opposed to the Bantustan version currently on offer) is seen to be no longer attainable.  40 Years of Occupation was marked around the world in June with non-violent events which will continue by marking 60 years since the establishment of the state and the Nakba.  Within ICAHD, my organisation, we launched a one and a half million dollar campaign to rebuild 300 homes demolished by Israel, including full page adverts in The New York Times and the Guardian, to mark our 40-60 Campaign, (funded by Americans, including holocaust survivors and Orthodox Jews) to expose Israeli policies of discrimination, whilst working to end the Occupation.

The 40 Years of Occupation was marked around the world in June with a multitude of events, gleaning much media attention. Next year’s worldwide campaigns will continue the Bilbao Declaration which invokes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN resolutions and calls for the establishment of civil society networks. Similarly, the Florence Declaration underlines the role of civil society, and seeks to reinforce the Arab League Peace Plan.  There is also the Avaaz.org internet lobby, a spin-off of MoveOn and in UK War on Want, ICAHD UK and many others in the Enough! coalition are blazing the way for civil society, too.  In Israel, as many as a million Israeli civilians have voted with their feet and left the country, while some say the real refusal rate of youth to serve in the IDF may be as high as 50%.  Grey refusal in the Air Force is also very high, said to be 30%.

John Pilger wrote recently:

“The ethnic cleansing of Palestine is as much America’s crusade as Israel’s. On 16th August, the Bush administration announced an unprecedented $30bn military “aid package” for Israel, the world’s fourth biggest military power, an air power greater than Britain, a nuclear power greater than France. No other country on earth enjoys such immunity, allowing it to act without sanction, as Israel. No other country has such a record of lawlessness: not one of the world’s tyrannies comes close. International treaties, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified by Iran, are ignored by Israel. There is nothing like it in UN history.”  I’d add that Israel has ignored over 60 UNSC resolutions, in direct negation of United Nations’ recognition of Israeli statehood.

“But [says Pilger] something is changing. Perhaps last summer’s panoramic horror beamed from Lebanon on to the world’s TV screens provided the catalyst. Or perhaps cynicism of Bush and Blair and the incessant use of the inanity, “terror”, together with the day-by-day dissemination of a fabricated insecurity in all our lives, has finally brought the attention of the international community outside the rogue states, Britain and the US, back to one of its principal sources, Israel.”

“The swell of a boycott is growing inexorably, as if an important marker has been passed, reminiscent of the boycotts that led to sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Both Mandela and Desmond Tutu have drawn this parallel; so has South African cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils and other illustrious Jewish members of the liberation struggle.”  [end quote]

Ronnie Kasrils said, in fact, on visiting Palestine this year, that it is 100 times worse there than apartheid South Africa.  And UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, has said that human rights conditions in the EU trade agreement should be invoked and Israel’s trading preferences suspended.  This was echoed by Clare Short, with us today, in a June 26th debate in the British Parliament.  

Also in early July, the Dutch government warned a Rotterdam-based company to stop work on the construction of the 700 kilometre-long “separation barrier” or “apartheid wall”, as its construction was ruled illegal by the ICJ in 2004.  In America major churches such as the Presbyterians have ongoing processes of Mission Responsibility Through Investment: MRTI in place, which lead to divestment.

I would say that those who read the facts on the ground, the infrastructure, and the money trail, and the political declarations or meaningful silences or constructive ambiguity (or even warnings of the next intifada brewing if November produces yet another slap in the face to the Palestinians) – are less than optimistic.

International civil society, as represented at this meeting and at Social Forum meetings, consisting of peace and human rights groups, faith-based groups, trade unions, universities and intellectuals, and all those ordinary people of the world in solidarity with the Palestinian people and the Israeli peace camp, is the key to liberation. When even the Peace NGOs Forum run by the Peres Centre for Peace holds a conference in Florence to engage with international civil society because it sees it as the only effective counterweight, one sees a growing realisation that only civil society can bear this singular burden of democracy, not least to empower politicians at forums such as this – the United Nations and the European Parliament.

I see, after five years of working with diplomats, politicians and aid workers in Israel and Palestine, that on an individual basis there’s enormous personal support and empathy for the Palestinian cause.  Because they see it.  They “get” it.  But actually diplomats have no power. They are the ‘hollow men’ and their own governments are unable and unwilling, often for economic or domestic reasons, to translate diplomatic empathy into policy.  Thus the gulf between realpolitik and policies of peace or real democracy.  Between the peoples of the world and the power bases.  Between those millions who took to the streets against the Occupation of Iraq or those who went to war, willy-nilly defying warnings.

I recall Ophir Pines-Paz, when Minister of Internal Affairs, insisting at a conference in Jerusalem about the city’s future (attended by the “left”): “Give me a hard time.  I need to hear from you so I can offset pressure I get from other lobbies.”  Similarly, in Florence, in June this year, Romano Prodi told the Peace NGOs that he can’t pressure George Bush or interfere in Israeli domestic policy, but said “Italian civil society can help you a lot with this.”  In other words, only if we build a successful grassroots, civil society struggle, similar to that of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the 80s or Civil Rights in the 60s, will the diplomats and politicians become sufficiently compelled to change policy.

So much happens so fast on a daily basis (home demolitions, arrests, settler violence, Wall infrastructure, tree uprootings, detentions, military raids, 50% of Palestinian farmers now on food aid in model farming communities, and a general breakdown of Palestinian civil society, to name but a few), and Israeli and Palestinian society are so dysfunctional that outside help is vital. We need to build on action taken, connect with worldwide peace and social movements and develop them together.  The real international peace movement, which mobilizes against wars and occupation, in Iraq, Lebanon or the OPT, is the only alternative.  But campaigners must know the facts on the ground and subtleties, or else become unfocused, simplistic or simply hate-filled. And they must be able to counter the rhetoric of the right wing, which doesn’t recognise the Palestinians, and never has – whilst demanding of Hamas full recognition of borderless Israel as a Jewish state (invoking, with chutzpah, United Nations benchmarks!).

I see the Israeli extreme Right as a more dangerous enemy of peace than the Palestinians, most of whom want peace.  Recently the IDF escorted us into Hebron for a demonstration through the Palestinian part of Hebron, rather than through militant strongholds of Kiryat Arba and settlements ruthlessly judaising Hebron’s Old City, which they considered far more dangerous to our safety.  Indeed it was Hebron American Israeli Kach-supporter settler Dr. Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of 29 Palestinians in the Cave of the Patriarchs, the Ibrahimi Mosque, which persuaded Hamas to turn its armed struggle against civilians, and start the wave of bus and café suicide bombings which so traumatised Israelis, preventing them from feeling responsibility for Palestinian suffering.  Hamas is threatening now to end its ceasefire. Let us see then if the Wall can really work or if – as Jamal has shown – it isn’t really just a huge land and water grab, a tool for massive population transfer.  The Right has no peace plan. At a recent 3-day Conference in Jerusalem to discuss the future of the Jewish people, peace was not even on the Agenda.  So much for their Jewish values.

We need now to co-ordinate a global campaign aimed to put pressure on Israel to end its politics of occupation and colonization and divide-and-rule tactics by sanctioning its systematic violations of international law and United Nations resolutions. We must save Israel from itself, for the sake of the majority of average peaceful Israelis and Palestinians.

As one who lived for five years in South Africa under apartheid, I heard the anti-boycott choruses from apartheid supporters, so I take such words with a large pinch of cynical salt.  Boycott is a fundamentally useful way of encouraging public awareness, putting pressure and expressing disapproval.  No, it is not okay.  No, the world has benchmarks of human rights and international law.  Occupation, colonialism and apartheid are unacceptable in the 21st century.  Some say boycotts “will not change positions in a day, but they will send a clear message to the Israeli public that these positions are racist and unacceptable … They would have to choose.”

In my organisation we have gone unsuccessfully to the Supreme Court to fight a demolition order on our peace centre, Beit Arabiya, located in a Palestinian home demolished by Israel four times.  So we’re now examining with the Chilean judge who brought Pinochet to trial, the possibility of using universal jurisdiction to sue those we say are committing war crimes by demolishing people’s homes (for nothing to do with security).  Similarly, the UN has been served with an Urgent Action Appeal on behalf of 3,000 Jahalin Bedouin – refugees being moved off land they’ve lived on since being forced off their own lands in the early ’50s; a population transfer being enforced by military order simply because they live in the path of the Wall being built illegally around the settlement city of Maale Adumim, whose infrastructure is designed to prevent a viable Palestine from ever arising. Another Urgent Action Appeal has just been delivered as to the North Jordan Valley for more population transfer there. 

I believe there are a number of actions that can be taken:

1.    Present the issue of settlements to the ICJ for its ruling under international law.

2.    Ensure the recommendations of the ICJ are implemented regarding the Wall, by calling the international community to boycott the Occupation, sanction Israel and divest;

3.    Work on a comprehensive registry of Palestinian damages, in the knowledge that transitional justice will one day kick in as it always does;

4.    If Israel doesn’t take serious steps towards real peace, Eurovision, the European Cup, the Olympic Games and other high profile events must be targeted, and the academic boycott increasingly kick in. 

5.    When even Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni uses the words “viable Palestine” we have to agree what real viability entails

6.    Never forget the centrality of the Right of Return and Israel’s responsibility for the refugees (which must also be acknowledged for the sake of Israeli closure, psychological health and reconciliation).

Because the crimes against humanity which UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard says are being committed — the Occupation has elements of colonialism and apartheid in it, according to him — are unacceptable, even if governments turn a blind eye or lack the political will to take principled stands.  The emperor is naked and only international civil society is free to say so.  Which emperor?  All the emperors.  (If Madeleine Albright could put her foot down and freeze settlements, why doesn’t Ms. Rice?)  Indeed, civil society has a duty to exercise and underwrite freedom and democracy or risk losing them, in the face of neo-conservative values and the neocons’ predilection for imperialistic wars – fought by Israel as their proxy in the Middle East.

Pressure works.  So, sadly, we have to ratchet up the pressure, so that Israel’s government won’t continue down the suicidal road on which it’s embarked.  This means lobbying those in power.  Insisting that they visit Palestine with critical guides (not just the IDF or Jewish lobby) to see what is contentious.  We need to ensure they visit the living conditions of Bedouin citizens living in the Negev without water, electricity, roads, health services or any conditions provided to other citizens living next door.  It means writing Op-Eds or letters and getting them placed, even in local newspapers.  Phoning-in to local or national radio to report on visits and actions and activisms and campaigns.  Boycotting Israeli products.  Insisting on the benchmarks of international law and human rights.  Promoting photographic exhibitions particularly amongst students so they can see what the hell is going on. 

And it demands of us to strategise and to prioritise.  Are we now embarked on an anti-apartheid campaign? Are we still going for the 2-state solution or can we discuss alternatives?  If the 2-state solution is already dead and buried and irrelevant because of those facts on the ground, what are the alternatives?  How do we fight the so-called security infrastructure being built on E-1 — the nail in the coffin of the 2-state solution – already two huge police stations dominate it.  Can we strategise effectively?  Where do we stand on Gaza and its prison-like sub-human conditions, the blockade it suffers, the poisonous water supply, the naval patrols preventing fishing, while Israeli officials talk of it being free?  We must surely fund the Free Gaza campaign.

The Israeli government and the Bush Administration will not move forwards for real peace.  Time and serious commitment are of the essence, as are truth, and true hearts.  Peace – real peace – is long overdue.  This is no time to cling for security to the line of least resistance, for feeling comfortable. We are in a state of psychological warfare, fighting for peace.  A spiritual battle that we shall, insha’allah, eventually win.  Together.  Thank you.

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