Peace in our Time?

March 29, 2008

Lies, Damn Lies, and Supreme Court briefs

Filed under: Annapolis, Blogroll, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 9:19 pm

March 23, 2008 by Gershom Gorenberg

The Israeli Supreme Court recently issued a temporary ruling on a petition brought by residents of six Palestinian villages who have been barred from using Highway 443. The highway is an Israeli-built road running from the Modi’in area near Tel Aviv, through the West Bank to the northern side of Jerusalem (actually, the north end of annexed East Jerusalem).

The petitioners, represented by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), asked the court to “repeal the IDF’s complete restriction on Palestinian movement on Route 443,” according to ACRI. Instead, the court gave the state six months to report on its efforts to built an alternative road for Palestinians only. Though this isn’t the final ruling, it looks like court approval for separate roads in the West Bank, segregated roads, for Israelis and Palestinians. The alternative road, by the way, has the Orwellian name, “Mirkam Haim” – “Fabric of Life Road” – meaning that Israel is protecting the fabric of normal life by building it.

As ACRI points out, Route 443 has a long history with the Supreme Court:

Parts of the road were built on land expropriated by the Israeli Military Commander in the 1980s. In response to a petition submitted at the time by local residents against the expropriation, the Supreme Court accepted the State’s claim that the road was intended primarily for the benefit of the local Palestinian population – the same population which is today prohibited from using the road.

One might conclude – the state would like us to conclude – that the contradiction is ex post facto. Originally the road was primarily for local Palestinians, but Israelis also used it. And it just happened to become a major thoroughfare from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. So when the second intifada began and Palestinians shot at Israeli cars several times on the road, the state responded by closing the road to all Palestinians and eventually decided to build a second road.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I’ve found clear historical evidence that the state was lying to the Court in the 1980s when it claimed that the road was primarily for local Palestinians.

Rather, the road was planned in the mid-70s as part of a wider plan for Israeli settlement around Jerusalem. In turn, that plan reflected the original Allon Plan, drawn up by the-Labor Minister Yigal Allon in July 1967, immediately after the Six-Day War. The road’s purpose was to serve settlements and the eventual annexation of West Bank land to Israel. Everything else was purely a cover story

The Supreme Court depends on affadavits submitted to it; it does not conduct its own evidence hearings. And though it has occasionally, rarely, overthrown government actions in occupied territories, it has been all too ready to accept the government at its word on the purposes of its actions.

Here’s some of the evidence the court should have seen:

In one of the files of the-defense minister Shimon Peres, a document from the spring of 1976 lays out settlement plans. It includes a “new access road to Jerusalem, from the Lod area, via the Beit Sira junction, to Givon junction and Jerusalem…” The road will help link new settlement blocs, including one which is in the area of present day Givat Ze’ev. (continued below image)

image-1.jpg

Another document in the same file, from June 29, 1976, from the office of the government coordinator of activities in the territories, reports on a meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Settlement. The committee was informed of a decision by a parallel ministerial committee that dealt specifically with settlements intended to “widen Jerusalem.” The latter committee had approved the road that would become Route 443. (continued below image)

 image-2.jpg

 Both documents serve to back up the version of events in Asor Shel Shikul Da’at by Yehiel Admoni (Yad Tabenkin, 1992), pp. 155-57. Admoni was the No. 2 man in the Jewish Agency’s Settlement Department during the crucial first decade of settlement after the Six-Day War. Admoni reports a meeting as early as July 1975, with Peres and settlement committee chairman Yisrael Galili participating, in which it was agreed to build the road in order to “widen Jerusalem” with settlements.

It’s not an accident that this plan was born during the years that Labor was in power. It fits Yigal Allon’s original proposal for how Israel should redraw its borders following the June 1967 conquests. I found Allon’s proposal to the cabinet in prime minister Eshkol’s files in the State Archives. The proposal states that west of Ramallah, the border should be drawn so that “the Latrun-Beit Horon-Jerusalem road will be in Israel’s hands.” (Route 443 roughly follows the route of the road that existed in those days.) Allon’s goal was to widen the corridor that linked Jerusalem with coastal Israel. When the plan to build the new road was approved in the 1970s, it was a means to “create facts” to ensure that the territory specified by Allon would remain under Israeli rule.

When the state told the court that the new road was for use of local Palestinians, it was counting on the court’s unwillingness to challenge the factual basis of the governmet’s position. When the court ruled this month to leave the road for Israeli-only use, it was again rubber-stamping the annexationist policy.

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December 9, 2007

NOWHERE LEFT TO GO – Forced Displacement of Bedouin

Filed under: Annapolis, Bedouin, Blogroll, Gaza, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 8:28 pm

Read NOWHERE LEFT TO GO about Jahalin Bedouin forced displacement: http://www.icahd.org/eng/articles.asp?menu=6&submenu=2&article=411

JERUSALEM DISPOSSESSED PHOTO EXHIBITION

Filed under: Annapolis, Bedouin, Blogroll, Gaza, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 8:23 pm

See ActiveStills/ICAHD exhibition JERUSALEM DISPOSSESSED:
http://www.activestills.org/jerusalem/jerusalem.html

See JERUSALEM DISPOSSESSED catalogue: http://www.icahd.org/eng/images/uploaded_admin_content/books/Jerusalem_Dispossessed_Booklet.pdf

November 9, 2007

Coming to terms with the right of return

Filed under: Annapolis, Bedouin, Blogroll, Gaza, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 8:57 pm

by Tom Pessah

Damn it, those neighbors!

It’s a hot and humid August in Tel Aviv, and I have no wish to my old room in my parents’ house. During two years of studying in the States I had forgotten just how unpleasant August was here. Crossing the road would be an expedition that would require an extensive shower when I got back.

But I can’t stay, either. There is a horrible clanging going on upstairs, people are drilling into walls and making the whole house shake.

Over breakfast my dad wonders if this isn’t the third time that apartment has been renovated in the past couple of years. What for? Why did they buy the place if they didn’t like the way it looks? Is there nothing we can do?

He supposes not, it is their apartment, after all.

The apartment is, but not the house, my mom explains. We all lease the land on which the house was built.

Who do we lease it from?

From the Jewish National Fund. Everyone does either from them or from the State. Almost no one in Israel owns the land their houses are built on. “And where did the Jewish National Fund get it from?” I ask myself. My parents have moved on to more comfortable topics. But I can guess the answer: I know the houses of a Palestinian village, Sumeil, were just a few blocks south of my parents’ house, until 1948. And while I always liked to tell myself that “that’s where the village was”, in fact that’s just were the houses were. The villagers had land. All the land in the country was divided, none of it was empty. And this land, that my parents’ house is built on, must have belonged to them.

I grew up in Israel thinking I was left-wing. I went to all the right demonstrations against the occupation. The Ministry of Defense is located conveniently in the middle of Tel Aviv, just a few stops away on the bus.

You can just go and demonstrate, and then go out to a café. So we turned out and chanted all the right slogans: “ahat, shtaim, shalosh, arba’, teforak Kiryat Arba’ ” “One, two, three, four, dismantle Kiryat Arba” (one of the most famous settlements, near Hebron/al-Khalil).

Settling on other people’s land is wrong, I thought, so all we need to do is move the settlers back into Israel and then we’ll have peace. And we went on chanting these slogans at the same place, through the first intifada, during the Oslo years, after the shock of Rabin’s murder and the ascent of Netanyahu, until the second intifada. It was around then I met with some students from Nablus. The meeting between Israeli and Palestinian college students was organized by Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salaam, a community that tries to promote coexistence between Jews and Arabs. Unlike other groups, their idea wasn’t to help us find friends, to realize the “Other” wasn’t so bad, to create a shared belief in some kind of vague peace, tame and apolitical. It was quite the opposite: they tried to push us to confront some of the hardest issues, without guaranteeing any agreement would be found.

I had been getting along quite well with the Palestinian students, showing off my well-rehearsed tolerance, distancing myself from settlers, from the other Israelis in the group, from Israelis in general–I thought I was simply too open to be like them. And I understood some spoken Arabic, so I could listen a little to the Palestinians’ stories, about the checkpoints they avoided and the beatings they took just in order to come and meet us.

The organizers asked us to split into groups to discuss some of the biggest issues. I wanted to be on the group discussing the right of return. We Israelis came up with an especially tolerant proposal: we would allow a hundred thousand Palestinians to return! This was much to the left of the Israeli consensus and we felt very generous.

To our surprise, the Palestinians weren’t taken aback by our liberality.

They even seemed offended by our discussing the issue in terms of allowing them to enter our country! But how else could it be discussed, I wondered?

What is their solution? Could they really want to live among us? But how is that possible? Israel is a Jewish state, after all. What would happen to us Jews? Would we become a minority?

Five years have passed since then. I learned a lot, and I was lucky enough to study at UC Berkeley. As a famous Israeli song goes, things that you see from here, you don’t see from there. It seems much simpler to me now:

Palestine/Israel isn’t mine to give; Palestinians have as much of a right to it as I do. The former inhabitants of Sumeil don’t need my big-hearted generosity: they need my recognition of the injustice committed towards them when they were expelled from their homes in 1948. They need me to remind people that most of Israel is built upon land that belonged to Palestinians.

They need me to invite them and their children to come and live with us.

In Berkeley, I live a couple of blocks from some of my closest Palestinian friends. That could happen in Tel Aviv too. Inshallah.

Tom Pessah is a graduate student of Sociology at UC Berkeley.

November 6, 2007

NOWHERE LEFT TO GO

Filed under: Bedouin, Blogroll, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 12:35 am


                                         

Jahalin Bedouin Refugees – Nowhere Left to Go
New ICAHD Publication – Edited by Angela Godfrey-Goldstein
Sunday, October 28, 2007

Download 50-page booklet (6MB file) at
http://www.icahd.org/eng/articles.asp?menu=6&submenu=2&article=411.

Over the past few months, Jahalin Bedouin have remained under sustained pressure by the Israeli authorities to relocate outside the planned route of the Wall and the area set for the construction of the new E1 colony (settlement). Their forced relocation to land belonging to other Palestinian villages would cause tensions with local communities, constitute forced displacement and would be detrimental to their semi-nomadic way of life. As available land shrinks, Bedouin are faced with nowhere to go.

The case brought by the residents of Abu Dis concerning the route of the Wall near their village, which may also impact the Bedouin communities living nearby, was heard by the Israeli High Court in June, 2007. The Court ruled at the beginning of August that the Defense Minister (Mr. Barak) had 45 days to review the route of the Wall in this area and advise the Court as to whether or not the route of the Wall could and should be changed. Depending on the opinion of Minister Barak, the route of the Wall may be re-routed further away from the village of Abu Dis, which could also allow nearby Jahalin communities (around 10) to remain where they currently reside. If the Minister does not advise to change the route of the Wall, construction of the Wall will go as planned and these Bedouin communities will most certainly be forcibly displaced in the next few months.

Meanwhile, Jahalin Bedouin are seeking ways to improve their living conditions. A number of Bedouin communities living in the area, and in particular near Kedar, have appealed to local and international organizations to support projects that will contribute to improve their living conditions. They have identified the most pressing needs of their communities: water, electricity (generator) and education for their children. Projects should help the Bedouin build sustainable livelihoods. The Jahalin welcome and are happy to host visitors, in the longstanding traditions of ancient Bedouin hospitality.

As the world, and this region specifically, faces increasing pressure on receding water resources and gradual desertification, these indigenous survivors of desert will be sorely needed for their wisdom and advice as to how to survive in extreme desert conditions. We shall miss and value them. When it is too late?

October 7, 2007

Jews for Justice for Palestinians’ open letter to British Foreign Secretary in The Times [click on ad. to read signatories]

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 2:15 pm

Rt Hon David Miliband MP
Foreign Secretary
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles St
London SW1A 2AH, 28th September 2007

Dear David,

In your address to the UN today, we urge you to oppose Israel’s sanctions against the people of Gaza. Amnesty International, Israeli organisations and distinguished Israeli writers have all condemned this move, announced on September 19th, to extend these sanctions.

As British Jews and voters, we call on the UK government to stand against this collective punishment, a direct violation of international law. The Israeli Deputy Prime Minister described the proposal as cutting off “infrastructural oxygen”. In fact, the threat is to the real water and real electricity supplies to the entrapped population of Gaza. Euphemisms cannot disguise the genuine danger to health and lives.

Indiscriminate punishment of Palestinian civilians does not protect the people of Sderot but, as Gush Shalom (the Israeli Peace Bloc) put it, unites all Palestinians “in bitterness and hatred” against Israelis “who will bear the price
eventually.” As you said in your speech to the Labour Party Conference – there may be military victories, but there is no military solution.

The UK Foreign Affairs Select Committee (August 2007) has called the decision not to speak to Hamas “counterproductive”. This week a petition from Israeli writers, including David Grossman, Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua says ‘In the past Israel has negotiated with its worst enemies, and now the correct course of action is to negotiate with Hamas… to prevent further suffering on both sides’. (Jerusalem Post 23.9.2007)

We urge you to heed these words.

Yours sincerely,

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

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.

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