An old man in Gaza held a placard that reads: “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.”
[L]et’s face it. It isn’t that we don’t know what happened in 1947-1948. It’s that we’ve chosen not to see or hear anything that jars our thinking on the subject. Certain words and ideas have remained taboo, certain questions have been sidelined as suspect and certain histories – ours and theirs – have been excised, the better to educate us to numbness and indifference. The result is that we prefer to think of Israeli-Arab wars as instances of the much lamented ‘clashes of civilization’ that pit our civilized allies against the violence-prone ‘other,’ As long as our side wins, there is no need to look into the face of the ‘enemy,’ or to ask ourselves why and why again? Admittedly, doing so risks discovering that ‘they’ are like us, which is as disconcerting as learning that what the ‘experts’ have taught us about our history and theirs is often plain wrong, leaving us to discover that deception can be dangerous.
Voting by an overwhelming majority — 138 in favour to 9 against (Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Panama, Palau, United States), with 41 abstentions — the General Assembly today accorded Palestine non-Member Observer State status in the United Nations.
An uneasy cease-fire has been declared ending Israel’s attack on Gaza, Operation Pillar of Defense. Take this quiz to see how much you know about the situation.
Hanan Ashwari: “Typical American behaviour but also overkill. It is ridiculous and unconscionable the way they put themselves at the service of Israel in such a blatant way. This is tremendous American pressure and bias.”
In the shadow of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s theatrics at the United Nations last week, armed with his cartoon Iranian bomb, Israeli officials launched a quieter, but equally combative, initiative to extinguish whatever hopes have survived of reviving the peace process. For the first time in its history, Israel is seeking to equate millions of Palestinians in refugee camps across the Middle East with millions of Israeli citizens descended from Jews who, before Israel’s establishment in 1948, lived in Arab countries.
Europe’s only real leverage over Israel is economic: business between the two already accounts for about 60 per cent of Israeli trade, worth nearly 30 billion euros (Dh136 billion). But rather than penalising Israel for repeatedly stomping over the flimsiest prospects for a two-state solution, the EU is handsomely rewarding it.
Under international law, Israel’s rule in the West Bank and Gaza is considered “belligerent occupation” and, therefore, its actions must be justified by military necessity only. If there is no occupation, Israel has no military grounds to hold on to the territories. In that case, it must either return the land to the Palestinians, and move out the settlers, or defy international law by annexing the territories, as it did earlier with East Jerusalem, and establish a state of Greater Israel.
The rift in Israel between the political leadership’s push for an attack on Iran, and the security establishment’s opposition widened in recent weeks. Three new voices spoke out on the question of Iran in the Israeli press, throwing doubt into the motivation of those who push for an attack, namely Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Lia Tarachansky spoke to Ha’aretz journalist Gideon Levy and Major General Shlomo Gazit, the former head of Army intelligence.
Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) criticized the move, saying that it amounted to a “boycott of the UN,” and asked what “Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu have in common with human rights.” MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) also condemned the decision, saying that Israel “prefers settlements over human rights and contact with the international community.” Khenin called the move “dangerous,” saying that “through disconnecting from the world, the government is only isolating itself.”
Human Rights Council votes to dispatch a fact-finding mission to investigate the effects of Israel’s settlements on Palestinians; Netanyahu calls council ‘hypocritical’ and out of touch with reality.
Judith Ilani, Jaffa’s Popular Housing Committee: “In Palestinian Jaffa, the poorest people live on the most expensive piece of soil in the country… Even if I have a doghouse close to the sea, the value of it comes from what you can build once you demolish the doghouse.”
In Israel, the debate over whether to attack Iran has seen the political leadership of the Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, and the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, face a resistant security echelon with the heads of Israel’s intelligence agencies (and their predecessors) opposing such an attack. The question of Iran was at the top of the agenda at this year’s Herzeliya Conference last week.
Michael Sfard: “It’s the first report of its kind which, looking from a bird’s-eye view, sees not just demolitions, not just loss of residency, and not just discrimination between Jewish and Palestinian [inhabitants] – but also displacement based on ethnic origins.”
Israel’s Civil Administration issues 101 different types of permits to govern the movement of Palestinians, whether within the West Bank, between the West Bank and Israel or beyond the borders of the state, according to an agency document of which Haaretz obtained a copy.
The US and Israel have both been intent on forestalling the appearance of the Palestinian Authority before the UN, in case it succeeded in winning support for its unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence. This is a reversal of history: in 1948, the US regarded the prospect of an Israeli declaration of independence as a threat to its interests in the region, and the State Department, Defence Department and CIA were worried about such an outcome.
Like thwarted spoiled bullies, both Israel and the US reacted with theatrical pique and fury. The US, never applying sanctions against Israel’s decades- long war crimes in Gaza and the OPT’s by suspending its steadfast cornucopia of billions in aid and arms, immediately withdrew its $80 million contribution to UNESCO as a collective punishment.
Moshe Dayan: Fundamentally, a Palestinian state is an antithesis of the State of Israel… The basic and naked truth is that there is no fundamental difference between the relation of the Arabs of Nablus to Nablus and that of the Arabs of Jaffa to Jaffa… And if today we set out on this road and say that the Palestinians are entitled to their own state because they are natives of the same country and have the same rights, then it will not end with the West Bank. The West Bank together with the Gaza Strip do not amount to a state… The establishment of such a Palestinian state would lay a cornerstone to something else… Either the State of Israel — or a Palestinian state.
A gang of thugs, the forum of eight senior [Israeli] ministers, decided on the steps to punish the man who dared to act contrary to the desires of the familia. They’re building another 2,000 housing units in the settlements, which are for the first time being characterized as punishment. And they’re stealing the Palestinians’ tax money and canceling some of their leaders’ VIP passes.
The responsibility of the solidarity movement … is not to get caught up in wonkish or wishful “one-versus-two-state” disputations, but to do everything we can to advance the bottom-up struggle where we are. This is all the more important because, while gains can be won now to get the occupation’s foot a little bit off the Palestinians’ neck, no lasting solution seems possible in isolation from a broader democratic revolutionary transformation of the region.
Indeed, the Oslo Accords created false symmetry between the occupier/colonizer and the occupied/colonized. This symmetry denied the Palestinians an important asset in negotiations for their independence: recognition in principle of Israeli and international responsibility for having wronged the Palestinians and robbed them of their homeland and rights.
Netanyahu’s UN speech includes a strange statement: “The settlements are a result of the conflict”. The blurring of cause and effect is a constant feature of dominant Israeli rhetoric… And when he says, correctly, that the conflict began before a single settlement was established in the West Bank, he implicitly refers to the fact that, all along, the conflict’ core was the clash between a settler movement (Zionism) and the original inhabitants.