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Palestinian youths speak out: one state or two?

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By Pam Bailey

The international peace conference held in Paris Sunday to move forward in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was attended by representatives from about 70 countries—but no Palestinians or Israelis. In its concluding statement, the group “affirmed that a negotiated solution with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, is the only way to achieve enduring peace.”

However, while politicians and diplomats keep holding onto the dream of two states living peacefully side by side, many Palestinians no longer see it as a possibility. In fact, in a December poll in the West Bank and Gaza by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, two-thirds of the public said they believe the two-state solution is no longer practical due to settlement construction.

And many are beginning to say it’s time to focus on one state, with equal rights for all. Palestinian attorney Diana Buttu said on a recent American radio broadcast that, “The international community too often speaks about us and not to us. You see this particularly when it comes to Secretary Kerry’s statement that Palestinians don’t want to see one state. The polls are actually showing the opposite, that people don’t believe in two states any longer, and that many genuinely want to see one state. It’s time for people to start listening to the voices of Palestinians.”

No Palestinians or Israelis attended Paris Peace Conference.

Voices that are particularly ignored are those of the youth, who make up more than half of the population of the occupied Palestinian territories. So, I asked members of We Are Not Numbers for their opinions, and here is what some of them said:

Basman Derawi

I think Israel diminishes every single solution proposed and the international community should push Israel to take responsibility for its actions. I think, though, that its expanding settlements and other actions means the ‘two-state solution’ is over. Plus it wouldn’t be fair for Palestinians to settle for 20 percent or less of our original land when the power is so unequal. I think what is better is one state, but with a new name and as a democratic rather than religious country to which Palestinian refugees could return.

Israa Sulliman

I think the two-state solution may have been possible years ago, but now it is impossible.

(PA President Mahmoud) Abbas, with the international community’s “help,” has been negotiating for 24 years and nothing has changed. Israel is still violating our human rights and taking what it wants from Palestine, including water and land, with complete international impunity. In addition, with hundreds of settlements now in the West Bank, we can declare that the two-state solution is already dead. It is hard, to say the least, to make so many settlers evacuate. Many Israeli ministers and other leaders have made it clear they refuse statehood for Palestine.

So, we should think of another alternative: a democratic, binational state with equal rights for all citizens. This alternative should have been adopted years ago; there is so much hate between both sides, it will take hundreds of years to make it a success. But it’s time to see if we can make it work. To get Israel to accept this too, the international community must pressure Israel. It is time for sanctions and for the world to support the BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) movement to push for a democratic, binational state!

Mohammed Alhammami

To be honest, I never believed in the two-state solution. To me, it seemed unjust. The current dilemma was caused by the circumstances in which Israel was created. Why do we have to give up our historical land because the Zionist militias committed massacres against Palestinians and forced our grandparents out of their homes into refugee camps? Why is it us who have to pay for peace and not Israelis? That was the cornerstone of my thinking process early on.

The toughest issues in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are: 1) the disposition of the more than 4 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants around the world, 2) the status of Jerusalem and, 3) the illegal settlements.

The two-state solution does not offer a just and fair solution for disenfranchised Palestinians. People tend to underestimate the sensitivity and importance of the refugee issue to Palestinians. We’re taught from a young age where we came from, from which neighborhood, where it’s located. And we’re brought up on the belief that we are returning there. Every single Palestinian refugee, old and young, knows the city or village of his or her origin.

What the one-state option offers, for me, is fairness and justice. If you’re a Palestinian, and you want to go back to the city or village of your origin, then you would be able to do so. If you’re Jewish, and you want to worship in Hebron, you could do so. It would be our country, together.

However, a one-state solution must be a country based on equality, dignity and human rights for everyone. It must be a country of law, and the law must apply to all people equally.

The reality right now is closer to apartheid than anything. The Palestinian territories are bantustans (like those in apartheid South Africa). Gaza is a bantustan governed by Hamas. Chunks of the West Banks are bantustans run by the PA. And the rest of the country is controlled by Israel. But overall, the Israeli government rules everything, just like the apartheid government of South Africa.

I believe that for the one-state solution to be attainable, our struggle must move from a political struggle to a human rights one.

Yasmin Hillis

I agree with [Palestinian attorney] Diana Buttu when she says the one-state solution is the only way that can move us forward. I believe the two-state solution is no longer available, since violence and settlement expansion are continuing. And, in actuality, when we look closely, we see that one state is the situation we have today, de facto. So, we do not have to push for a one-state solution. What we really need to push for is equal rights in this state, regardless of faith or race.

Mohammed Arafat

I am the grandson of two elderly Palestinians who were witnesses to the Nakba, the catastrophe in which they were forced from their homeland so that Israel could be created. I think the two-state dream has already died, since Israel’s aim since the beginning has been to construct its Jewish state over Palestinian lands. Nowadays, we see and hear Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying he supports two states. However, I think these declarations are just a waste of time and ink on paper since he, along with most Israeli leaders, have been saying that for decades and we have seen no concessions—only our own. Israel is still building its settlements on private Palestinian lands in the West Bank, not caring about international law or resolutions that tell it to stop.

Some people think that one state, with equal rights for both sides, can end the seven-decade conflict. I think that would be a very important step if their intention is to solve this conflict, not to use their people as pawns! The one-state resolution is not easy for Israel to accept since its main goal is to have a country for Jewish people only. We can see Israelis’ desire to be rid of us in soldiers’ behavior with Palestinian citizens in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, especially children—which is mostly not shown in the media. Their goal seems to be the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, so how can they accept Palestinians living among them? It is because of this that hatred is found on both sides, likely causing a lot of religious and racist problems inside the state, if formed. And one other thing: There would have to be a name for that one state, and I do not think Palestinians can accept living in a country named Israel, due to their patriotic spirit. The same would be true for Israelis if they were asked to live in Palestine. A new name must be chosen.

We all know by now that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not easily be solved. Still, it can be resolved if both sides are willing. Neither the two-state nor the one-state solution can work without the will.

(Source / 16.01.2017)


Written by altahrir

January 16, 2017 at 4:15 pm

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Iran’s ‘Revolutionary Guard’…a Terror Group?!

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Looking into designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terror group is most definitely overdue.

Despite the unwarranted presence of Revolutionary Guard proxies abroad, chiefly prevalent in the Arab region, and their loud violations in Syria and Iraq, it is only now that the United States has considered studying the bill, which details were published earlier by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, and was reintroduced by Senators Ted Cruz and Jim Inhofe on labeling the IRGC as a terrorist body.

Not only does the IRGC openly support the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah and the militarized Houthi-led coup in Yemen, but is also held responsible for the assassination of international diplomats. If that is not the very definition of terrorism, then what is?! Aside from Iran itself and allies, the radical nature of the guard is evident.

As the IRGC Terrorist Designation Act is reintroduced, companion bills made their way to the House. The bills aim to direct the State Department to hold accountable the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei –holding executive power over the Revolutionary Guard- and the IRGC, as a foreign entity managing extraterritorial operations unit the Quds Force, for adopting a violent ideology that threatens U.S. interests.

Hailing the success of the bill is premature — nevertheless, it is a positive step taken towards abolishing double-standards weighing down on the global fight against terrorism. The proposals require a report on whether IRGC-affiliated organizations meet the criteria to be designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, and if so, will enable the U.S. to take action that could stifle IRGC funding received to promote terrorist activities.

Reinstating the bill, although an earth-shattering progress, will not reach its full potential until it effectively establishes that the IRGC is in fact a terror group in and of itself, stripping it from the authoritative cloak it had been using to legitimize its actions.

The IRGC combines traditional military roles but focuses on opposition inside Iran that is considered as a domestic enemy. More so, the group is also Iran’s main connection to terrorist proxies, which the Iranian regime uses to boost its global influence with.

Such an entity should not be endowed with the merits brought about by sovereignty, allowing the cleric-led regime a free pass to integrating the Revolutionary Guard militias into the government.

The IRGC, by no means, is any less dangerous than other religion-styled terror group. Only more ‘evil’ and threatening, given that it enjoys an advantage groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS don’t have, which is state protection.

When it comes to keeping track of violent paramilitary militias backed by governments, the IRGC is not an exception but unfortunately the rule. An Amnesty International released report shows that Iraqi civilians, after escaping the horrors of war and ISIS tyranny, are facing the brutal revenge attacks at the hands of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

Similar to the Revolutionary Guard, the PMU carries out human rights abuses against civilians under the umbrella of the government, supported by Iraqi authorities that have provided them with both funds and weapons.

What is more is that the Amnesty International report holds the Iraqi government responsible for crimes committed by the PMU, which indirectly also holds states arming the Iraqi government accountable to the violations.

Regrettably, sectarian bias still plays a major role when it comes to singling out terrorist groups, which counter-productively diminishes global efforts poured into combating terrorism.

It is certainly unbelievable that IRGC extraterrestrial proxies like ‘Hezbollah,’ the ‘Quds Force’ and other denominational militias fighting by the side of Syrian authoritarian Bashar al-Assad are still not listed down as international terrorist groups till this very moment.

Double standards surely feed into wars, regional tensions and chaos. The region remains captive to the ever-growing toll of terror and sectarian tensions, despite all efforts.

Terror is by no means relative to religious sects — any person who kills innocent humans is a terrorist, irrespective of the slayer being Sunni or Shi’ite. Whether it be ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah or Iraq’s PMU the horror of their crimes is all the same.

Terrorism will continue to anchor itself worldwide, so long that it still is defined by prejudiced terms and grotesquely exploited for the sake of international politics.

(Source / 15.01.2017)

Written by altahrir

January 15, 2017 at 4:47 pm

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Stop glossing over the siege in Gaza and call it what it is: Genocide

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Just as there has been a discursive shift to call the occupation of Palestine an apartheid, we must acknowledge what is really happening in Gaza

As accustomed as I am to the offensiveness of the mainstream media coverage of Palestine’s suffering, I still have to stop and do a double take every now and then.

An article in Haaretz this past weekend, with its headline “No Water, No Electricity, and Children Dying Unnecessarily”, was one such moment.

When is it ever necessary for children to die, I wondered? I could not help but be horrified at just how expendable people must be before someone can come up with a cavalier headline about the necessity, or lack thereof, of its children dying.

READ: 2017: A year to recall three bleak Palestinian anniversaries

But the article itself, an interview by Ayelet Shani with Salah Haj Yahya, a Palestinian doctor who leads a Physicians for Human Rights monthly delegation from Israel into the Gaza Strip, was problematic in other ways.

The journalist persisted in asking about Hamas, suggesting that the political party was to blame for Gaza’s misery, rather than actually naming Israel and its sub-contractor, Egypt, as the powers responsible for enforcing a siege that penalises the predominantly refugee population for its political choice.

What is missing, in what otherwise presented itself as “concerned” journalism – oh dear, children are dying “unnecessarily” – is worth review.

We can’t blame Hamas

Specifically, Shani so totally normalises Israel’s illegal siege that it is not presented as the primary cause of the critical situation in the Gaza Strip. Instead, she focuses on the crumbling infrastructure, the lack of equipment, while always, always pointing an accusing finger at Hamas.

Haj Yahya redirects her attention to Israel’s responsibility, but she is undeterred, as she persists in criticising the violence inflicted by Hamas on the population of Gaza.

Why would it be the responsibility of the Arab states to ensure that Gaza has electricity and clean water?

For example, in response to Yahya saying he does not coordinate with Hamas, Shani asks: “You have no contact with Hamas, not even an informal one? Don’t you need their permission? Don’t they supervise your work?”

Haj Yahya: “There’s no contact. We coordinate our entry with the Israeli side, we don’t work with Hamas or its representatives. We only work with hospital directors and the Palestinian health ministry, with the health minister in Ramallah and his deputy in Gaza. They are the ones who approach us.”

Can we just remember that it is indeed Israel that controls the borders, or should I say, that maintains the siege?

Palestinian children play at the rubble of buildings a year after the 2014 Gaza war on 6 July 2015 

Yet the focus on Hamas suggests that Hamas has the greater say. Or worse yet, that it may deny a Palestinian medical delegation permission to treat patients in Gaza.

Further, Haj Yahya says: “The water is unfit to drink, unfit for any use. There is hardly any electricity. Gaza is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster. There’s hardly any international aid and the Arab states aren’t succeeding in providing any assistance.”

The Arab states? Why would it be the responsibility of the Arab states to ensure that Gaza has electricity and clean water?

Why couldn’t Shani, if she were a responsible journalist, have made it clear that it is Israel that controls Gaza’s infrastructure, its electricity and necessary equipment for its water treatment facilities, not “the Arab states”?

Perhaps most damning is this part, where Haj Yahya brings up an egregious matter he and others have documented before, namely that patients in need of life-saving treatment are blackmailed into collaborating with Israeli intelligence in order to obtain a permit to enter Israel, for treatment that is not available in the Strip:

Haj Yahya: There is also the issue of blackmail.

Shani: Meaning what?

The Palestinian narrative is as besieged as the people in Gaza

Haj Yahya: Their travel permit is granted only on condition that they collaborate – information in exchange for an entry permit.

Shani: You’re saying that the Shin Bet blackmails these patients? Can you prove that?

Haj Yahya: We have filmed documentation of patients being threatened or blackmailed in exchange for a permit. We’ve written a report on this. The questioning often deteriorates into unpleasant and humiliating situations. Violence is sometimes resorted to.

And Shani continues, blaming Hamas for urging Palestinians not to collaborate with Israeli intelligence, even as Haj Yahya persists in explaining that it is not Hamas that is denying his patients exit permits.

The Palestinian narrative is as besieged as the people in Gaza.

The crime of crimes

But I want to go back to the title of this article, to children dying “unnecessarily”.  As early as 2010, Nadia Hijab, a Palestinian political analyst and author who now heads Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, asked: “When does it become genocide?”

“Israel would not directly kill tens of thousands of Palestinians,” she wrote, “but it would create the conditions for tens of thousands to die. Any epidemic could finish the job.”

‘The fact that Operation Protective Edge was the third large-scale, sustained military assault on this unlawfully blockaded, impoverished and endangered population also formed part of the larger genocidal context’

– Richard Falk, former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights

Four years later, in an article published in the aftermath of Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, Richard Falk asked: “Is Israel guilty of genocide?”

A professor emeritus of international law and former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, Falk is exceedingly cautious with terminology about what is considered the “crime of crimes,” and writes, cautiously, about a “genocidal” context.

“There was a genocidal atmosphere in Israel, in which high-level officials made statements supporting the destruction or elimination of the Gazans as a people. Furthermore, the sustained bombardment of Gaza, under circumstances where the population had no opportunity to leave or to seek sanctuary within the Gaza Strip, lent further credibility to the charge.

“The fact that Operation Protective Edge was the third large-scale, sustained military assault on this unlawfully blockaded, impoverished and endangered population, also formed part of the larger genocidal context.”

Israeli soldiers stand guard with their tank along the border between Israel and the Gaza strip on 4 May 2016

The circumstances that constituted a “genocidal context” in 2014 have not improved, and it is now commonplace knowledge that if the siege is not lifted, Gaza will no longer be livable by 2020.

Finally, last week, Mondoweiss courageously posted an opinion piece entitled “Mainstreaming Genocide.”

That crisis is not a natural disaster but politically manufactured, as Israel and Egypt enforce a “genocidal context” soon to enter its tenth year

Reporting on the light sentence given to an Israeli soldier who shot a young Palestinian lying injured in the street dead, writer and doctor of psychology and behavioural science Yoav Litvin wrote: “Israeli politicians have declared an open season on Palestinians. The precedent set by this case will further solidify the complete dehumanisation of Palestinians and pave the way for further ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

The stakes are high. Cold-blooded murder is condoned in the West Bank while in the Gaza Strip, the situation is, literally, a matter of life and death for two million people.

That crisis is not a natural disaster, but politically manufactured, as Israel and Egypt enforce a “genocidal context” soon to enter its tenth year.

Racists everywhere are emboldened, proudly carrying banners that proclaim “Kill Them All.”

We, too, must be courageous. We have recently seen the once-taboo word “apartheid” gain wider circulation, and the discursive change has indeed changed many millions of people’s perspective on the question of Palestine.

Can we also name the “unnecessary” deaths of children for what they constitute, namely, unfettered, state-sanctioned genocidal intent?

And no, no matter how much Zionists attempt to manipulate our stories, we must not, cannot, let them blame Hamas for that.

(Source / 13.01.2017)

Written by altahrir

January 13, 2017 at 5:26 pm

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The truck attack that killed four Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem was not ‘terrorism’

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“We in Jerusalem have just experienced an unprovoked terrorist attack, a murderous attack that claimed the lives of four young Israelis and wounded others”, said PM Netanyahu in a statement right after the car ramming attack in East Jerusalem two days ago.

He continued, loosely suggesting a link to ISIS terrorism: “This is part of the same pattern inspired by Islamic State, by ISIS, that we saw first in France, then in Germany and now in Jerusalem. This is part of the same ongoing battle against this global scourge of the new terrorism. We can only fight it together, but we have to fight it, and we will.”

We only have Netanyahu’s word for the ISIS connection, and whilst the case has been put under sweeping gag order, nothing seems to really point in that direction.

Netanyahu also has a worrying track record where such proclamations are concerned:

On the 13th of June 2014 three Jewish settlers were kidnapped. Israel officially announced them as ‘teens’, although more precisely one was 19 and two were 16. At the time, the authorities had recording of an emergency call that one of the kidnapped made, which ended with a spray of bullets and chants by the kidnappers. Thus, the Israeli authorities knew to a great certainty that the kidnapped were dead, but had put the case on a gag order and conveyed to the public they were working on the presumption that they are alive. The following action was a massive crackdown on Hamas, arresting almost all Hamas leaders in West Bank. Already on June 15th Netanyahu was blaming Hamas as well as holding the Palestinian Authority responsible. This was of course to play a part in his strategy of rejection against the April 2014 Palestinian unity government, where Netanyahu said Abbas should choose between ‘Peace or Hamas’. Hamas itself denied involvement, and it was already clear to the Israeli authorities at least by 26th of June that Hamas was not responsible. Nonetheless, when the bodies of the three were found on June 30th, Netanyahu ignored that, and said “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay”.

This was the lead-up to the 2014 Gaza onslaught.

With such a track record, one must therefore be extremely cautious about what Netanyahu says about who is responsible, especially when there’s a gag order on the case.

Netanyahu clearly has interest to link the recent case to ISIS and global terror events, because it would alleviate the international diplomatic pressure now facing Israel in the wake of recent UNSC Reesolution 2334 condemning all Israeli settlements as ‘flagrant violations’. If the Jerusalem ramming was an act related to the occupation, as everything so far suggests it is, it could be viewed as a strengthening of the point against the occupation. Netanyahu obviously wants the pretext thrown off as far as possible, and what is more convenient than to place this in the pretext of ‘global terror’ and to link it to France and Germany, thereby garnering western support. Germany has just responded sympathetically yesterday by lighting up of the Brandenburg Gate with the Israeli flag.

Another aspect in the rhetoric of ‘terror’, one that is hardly being questioned at all in mainstream media, is whether this does, at all, constitute terror.

After all, the driver of the truck was a Palestinian, resident of East Jerusalem which Israel considers an annexed part of the ‘complete and united capital’, a claim which no state in the world recognizes. For the whole world but Israel, East Jerusalem is occupied territory. In Netanyahu’s rendering, it is not even significant to mention that the four Israelis who died were soldiers (and not worth even mentioning that the attack also claimed a fifth life, that of the driver, but let’s not get over our heads here). He simply notes them as “four young Israelis”. This is a description that strips the context of its military aspect, and I think Netanyahu knows this very well, as I will elaborate later. By such rhetoric, Netanyahu blurs the distinction between military and civilian targets, a principle which is very important in the distinctions concerning terror. It does not matter whether the soldiers were combat soldiers, as the Israeli media stresses, in regards to this distinction. When we sum up the whole of the setting, what we actually have is a Palestinian under occupation, targeting a gathering which is rather exclusively manned by soldiers, military representatives of the army that is occupying him. All this falls, prima facie, within the distinctions regarding legitimate resistance to occupation. It does not matter how ugly it looks, we cannot without critical appraisal of the context just call it “terror”

But “terror” is precisely what Netanyahu wants the whole world to call this, and so far, it is working quite well. The ISIS claim is supposed to detach this from the local setting of occupation, but we only have Netanyahu’s word for it, and as mentioned, he is a notorious liar and manipulator. His claim about ISIS is loose, but much of the mainstream media seems to be complying uncritically with the ‘terror’ claim.

Netanyahu about ‘terror groups’ and ‘freedom fighters’

It can be interesting to reflect upon how Netanyahu views the question of terror, when it regards not Palestinians, but rather Zionist Jews. I’m not saying ‘Israelis’, because the case which I now will refer to is from 1946 – the bombing of the King David Hotel (which was housing, in part, British Mandate administrative headquarters) by Menahem Begin’s Irgun, an act actually approved by Haganah commander Itzhak Sadeh as part of the joint “rebel movement” of the time, which was a cooperation of ALL the Zionist underground militias, including Haganah, Irgun and Lehi. The bombing killed about 91 people, amongst them 28 British, 41 considered ‘Arabs’, 17 Jews, and 5 others.

In 2006, the Begin Heritage Center held a symposium at the 60th anniversary of the bombing, on the issue of who is a freedom fighter and who is a terrorist. Netanyahu was even recorded on CNN at the point saying that “It’s very important to make the distinction between terror groups and freedom fighters, and between terror action and legitimate military action”,

As Haaretz journalist Tom Segev reported, Netanyahu said that “the difference between a terrorist operation and a legitimate military action is expressed….in the fact that the terrorists intend to harm civilians whereas legitimate combatants try to avoid that.”

Now that is some statement. When mirroring this against the recent Jerusalem ramming attack, it would appear, that the attack may fall quite well within Netanyahu’s own definitions of ‘legitimate military action’.

Segev noted, that “according to that theory, the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by a Palestinian organization is a legitimate military operation”, and I would say that is exactly right – Gilad Shalit’s capture in 2006 by Hamas was no ‘kidnap’ either, as most all Israelis reflexively regard it. It was a military operation targeting a military subject. It was a mere military capture.

“Of course this is not what Netanyahu meant”, Segev hastened to add. “He learned only this from the bombing of the hotel: that the Arabs are bad and we are good.”

Indeed, the purpose of the Begin Heritage center symposium was hardly real soul-searching scrutiny about past actions of the Irgun. Its purpose was, naturally, to whitewash Jewish terror. The symposium ended with an unveiling of a plaque at the King David hotel, which noted the attack committed by “Irgun fighters at the order of the Hebrew Resistance Movement”. The plaque had initially contained the typical Irgun whitewash narrative: “For reasons known only to the British, the hotel was not evacuated and after 25 minutes the bombs exploded, and to the Irgun’s regret and dismay 91 persons were killed.” I shall not delve into the mass of details regarding the whitewash narrative, that is over 70 years old. But to summate shortly, whilst the Irgun had apparently gotten two of its women to make warning calls about one-quarter of an hour before the bomb went off (according to Thurston Clarke’s analysis contradicting Begin’s 25-minute claim), these calls were not made to the British authorities, but rather to the hotel switchboard (which did not share a direct line with the authorities), the French Consulate nearby and the Palestine Post – this is even the confirmed by one of the alleged callers, in a recent Hebrew interview (Haaretz) 70 years later  . It would appear that the whole telephone issue, if it ever happened, was construed to provide a moral whitewash for the bombing.

Back to the plaque unveiling in 2006, The British were rather enraged about this. Simon Macdonald, the British ambassador to Israel, and consul general John Jenkins, wrote to the mayor of Jerusalem protesting at the plaque. “We don’t think it’s right for an act of terrorism to be commemorated,” their letter read. The British embassy said that “There is no credible evidence that any warning reached the British authorities.” This was quite an embarrassment probably not least to centrist MK Tzipi Livni, whose father Eitan was an Irgun member.

The plaque has thus subsequently been amended, dropping the implication that Britain ignored any warnings.

Regardless of warning or no warning, whichever way you turn it, this was an attack that is widely considered to have been a terror attack, this is internationally quite uncontroversial. We do not need to get into the details of how rife such warnings were at the time, nor to address that a search squad had been at the hotel earlier that day apparently following bluff warning. The fact of the matter is that the Irgun and the Jewish Resistance Movement were putting many civilians in real danger. Segev summates in his coverage of 2006: “Her Majesty’s ambassador and the consul have written to the mayor of Jerusalem that such an act of terror cannot be honored, even if it was preceded by a warning. To this day, it is not clear what made the bombing’s planners believe the British would evacuate the building. Would Benjamin Netanyahu, as prime minister, have ordered his bureau evacuated on the basis of telephone threat from a Palestinian terror group?”

What ‘terror’ really means for Netanyahu

But the recent truck ramming attack in East Jerusalem, in the old ‘no-mans-land’ only a short distance from the King David hotel, appears to be a universe apart in Netanyahu’s perception. It doesn’t matter that only military personnel were targeted. It doesn’t matter if he’s Palestinian, it doesn’t matter where it happened – it’s all just “terror”.

We need to be careful that we do not all fall into Netanyahu’s and Israel’s very selective view on what constitutes terror, as well as why it is committed. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman takes that line and says that the truck-ramming attack was not fueled by the issue of Israeli settlements, rather by the mere fact that “we are Jews and we live here in Israel.” He doesn’t have to provide an evidential basis for the claim. There is apparently none. “There was no other reason and no need to look for an excuse – not Jewish settlements and negotiations but an attack inspired by ISIS” he said . Chief of Police Ronnie Alsheikh said he could not rule out the driver of the truck having been motivated by a similar attack on a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12 people last month – “It is certainly possible to be influenced by watching TV, but it is difficult to get into the head of every individual to determine what prompted him, but there is no doubt that these things do have an effect,” he said.

Yes, why not, why be so pedantic? Let’s just say ISIS, let’s just say terror, what does it matter? Do we really need to get to the bottom of this?

Israel’s Security Cabinet has already decided to approve administrative detention for people identifying with Islamic State, and to destroy the home of the ‘terrorist’ as soon as possible, reject family-reunification requests his family had filed for relatives in Gaza and the West Bank, and not to hand over the terrorist’s body to his family for burial.

The word ‘terror’ for Israel means, that more repression and collective punishment of Palestinians is possible, with less international scrutiny.

It’s a button that makes it all happen.

That’s what ‘terror’ really means for Netanyahu.

(Source / 11.01.2017)

Written by altahrir

January 11, 2017 at 3:58 pm

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What we can legally do against the anti-BDS campaign

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Activists need a solid legal strategy to resist states succumbing to Israel pressure and imposing BDS bans.

Israeli Border Police and army soldiers block Palestinian BDS protesters from advancing near the southern West Bank village of Jab'a [EPA]

Israeli Border Police and army soldiers block Palestinian BDS protesters from advancing near the southern West Bank village of Jab’a

In mid-December the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), a campaigning organisation in Britain supporting Palestinian issues, filed a claim in England’s High Court challenging regulations issued by the British government prohibiting local government pension schemes from pursuing boycotts, divestment or sanctions (BDS) against foreign nations as part of their investment policies.

It is clear to most observers that these regulations are intended to prevent boycotts of Israel, although they do not state this explicitly.

PSC has argued that the regulations prohibit freedom of expression, are so unclear as to be unlawful, are contrary to European Union law governing pensions, and that central government has abused its powers to regulate pensions to achieve other, unrelated objectives.

The government must formally respond to PSC’s claims and then the court will decide whether to grant permission for a hearing of the case.

The campaign against BDS

WATCH: Sanction movement BDS faces clampdown in the US (2:25)

In fact, the pensions regulations are the latest in a series of measures taken by governments in Europe and North America to counter BDS, after Israel created a special task force with a budget of around $25.5m in June 2015, to fight the movement worldwide.

In February 2016, the British government issued guidance prohibiting pro-BDS policies in public procurement, reportedly after lobbying by the Israeli embassy in London.

Meanwhile, the United States has issued a plethora of anti-BDS laws prohibiting state investment in entities that boycott Israel.

France has also used existing hate speech laws to prosecute activists encouraging BDS, and Canada, which signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Israel in 2015 to combat BDS, has threatened to use hate speech laws against activists.

Pro-Israeli NGOs in the United Kingdom and the US have promoted legal cases against organisations supporting boycotts of Israel, often claiming that BDS constitutes a form of anti-Jewish discrimination.

The right to freedom of expression

There is clearly a concerted, official pro-Israeli campaign to crush BDS. In response, the movement and its supporters have emphasised that BDS advocacy is protected by the right to freedom of expression, just as the campaign against apartheid South Africa was, and a letter signed by some 200 legal experts on December 9, 2016 has affirmed this principle.

Indeed, the right to free speech is an important legal foundation for the movement, which protects advocacy in support of its aims and the rights of persons to engage in boycotts of Israel. Thus, court cases against BDS have been successfully defended by asserting the right to freedom of expression.

In Scotland in 2010, for example, a protest which disrupted a recital of the Jerusalem String Quartet was held to constitute a legitimate exercise in freedom of expression.

Irrespective of how the movement chooses to fight the campaign against it, the fact remains that BDS has the moral high ground: its goals are rooted in international law and the achievement of human rights by peaceful means, whereas the campaign against it is fighting to eradicate a non-violent movement with humanitarian aims.

In England in 2013 the University and College Union successfully countered a Jewish member’s claim of racial harassment when a debate for an academic boycott was held to be part of the right to free speech (PDF).

In 2016, a pro-Israel NGO’s case against three pro-BDS city councils in Britain was also dismissed on similar grounds.

This is not a complete answer to the threats facing the BDS movement, however, since, firstly, governments determined to pursue a political agenda to stop its activities may simply violate the right to freedom of expression.

An example was the use of the criminal law in France to prosecute 12 activists for calling for a boycott of Israeli goods when such activism should have been protected by the right to free speech.

OPINION: BDS is a war Israel can’t win

Laws by state legislatures in the US to divest state funds from entities that support BDS – effectively thereby imposing a penalty for the “wrong” political opinion – may also violate constitutional rights to freedom of expression.

Secondly, even when anti-BDS measures that violate free speech can be overturned by courts, they often still have a “chilling effect” on BDS advocacy, for fighting them embroils campaigners in lengthy litigation which drains their emotional and financial resources.

Indeed, the mere threat of legal action can prevent organisations supporting BDS. For instance, in 2015 the board of the GreenStar Natural Foods Market cooperative in the US reportedly refused to allow its members to vote on boycotting Israeli goods since it feared that approving the boycott could lead to litigation.

Finally, the right to freedom of expression does not give BDS comprehensive protection. For example, if public bodies in Britain were to implement a blanket boycott of Israeli suppliers in public procurement, they might be considered to be in breach of free trade rules prohibiting discrimination on grounds of nationality, and would not be able to invoke a right to free speech to defend their actions.

The need for a legal strategy

UpFront – Is boycotting Israel anti-Semitic? (2:47)

Although BDS advocacy is solidly based on the right to freedom of expression, which should continue to be asserted, it is not sufficient on its own to defend the movement. A broader legal strategy is needed here, which should include the following measures.

Firstly, significant resources need to be allocated to provide legal assistance to campaigners and organisations subject to anti-BDS legislation or legal action by pro-Israel groups to help them to defend themselves.

Secondly, initiatives are needed to design and implement BDS policies in ways that do not violate existing laws – particularly where blanket boycotts could breach regulations prohibiting discrimination on the basis of nationality.

And thirdly, the law should be used to make the case proactively for BDS, rather than simply defend it from attack.

For example, one of the goals of BDS is to persuade governments to ban trade with Israeli settlements, since all states, except Israel, consider settlements illegal. There are good legal arguments that trading with settlements is, in itself, illegal and should therefore be prohibited.

Although the BDS movement has put forward some good arguments in this respect, these could be developed further and promoted more actively.

OPINION: On its 11th birthday, BDS leads nonviolent resistance

But in the end, and irrespective of how the movement chooses to fight the campaign against it, the fact remains that BDS has the moral high ground: Its goals are rooted in international law and the achievement of human rights by peaceful means, whereas the campaign against it is fighting to eradicate a non-violent movement with humanitarian aims.

BDS activists should take courage from this fact and use all legal means to assert their right to engage in BDS advocacy and resist the measures trying to suppress them.

(Source / 07.01.2017)

Written by altahrir

January 7, 2017 at 3:48 pm

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Opinion: Obama and the Palestinian Fig Leaf

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In the days that Fleet Street was the home of the British press many clichés circulated in the public bars as gospel truth of journalism. One such was the claim that the safest issues to write an editorial about were Palestine and Afghanistan. Six hundred words on why Palestine needed a better deal or why Afghanistan had to be helped to develop its economy would make the writer feel good about himself while the paper could pose as a fount of wisdom- all that without committing anyone to anything let alone upsetting any applecart.

It seems that the administration of President Barack Obama has adopted at least part of the cliché by suddenly feeling an upsurge of sympathy for the Palestinian cause. For more than a week the White House has been spreading the news that the US decided not to veto a resolution critical of settlement buildings in Israel on Obama’s “firm instructions.”

The resolution, numbered 2334, is marketed as an attempt at reviving the mythical peace process by fomenting confusion regarding other key resolutions of the Security Council, on the subject, notably the famous 242. It makes a set of recommendations to Israel without even hinting at what might be done if they are ignored. More immediately, it gives Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu additional arguments in favor of its “stand firm and fast, no compromise” stance that he tries to justify with reference to an uncertain international situation compounded by Obama’s apparent wish to fire parting shots at his Israeli bête-noire.

You need not be an expert in diplomacy to know that the resolution reduces any chance there might have been for a two-state solution, a chimera put in circulation by the then juvenile United Nations and later given a second life by President George W Bush. Because Obama is intelligent enough to know this, the only reason for his 11th hour activism on this issue must be his desire to hide the total favor of his lackluster presidency, especially in international affairs. One could already imagine him claiming in his memoirs that he had “worked hard” for a two-state solution until the last moments of his presence in the White House. (I wish Senator George Mitchell would write about his experience as Obama’s Middle East peace appointee and how the 11th hour self-styled peacemaker effectively sabotaged every practical step in that direction.)

Those who might ask why Obama didn’t do a thing eight years, or even two years ago, must remember that he was more concerned with his petty electoral calculations than any desire for justice for the Palestinians. In 2008 he needed the support of Jewish Americans in such crucial states as Florida and Ohio; and they did help by giving him 85 per cent of their votes. Last year he had the same calculation, this time in favor of Mrs. Hillary Clinton, his Democrat Party’s presidential candidate. No longer in need of electoral calculations, he can rediscover a conscience that reminds him of his attachment in his youth to the Palestinian cause.

Obama’s foreign policy factotum John Kerry has also been searching for a fig leaf to hide the nakedness of his failure as Secretary of State. His entourage tells me that he wanted to make a big speech on the subject in 2014, presumably to divert attention from his and Obama’s abject failures on Georgia, the Baltic States, Turkey, Egypt, Poland, Ukraine and Syria among other places. According to the yarn spun by his entourage, Kerry did not trigger his logorrhea because Obama ordered him to remain silent after the 2016 presidential election.

With that order no longer in force, Kerry, too, could build a bit of a legacy with a 60-minute diatribe that is bound to be studied as a model of confusion and dishonesty in diplomacy. According to French officials, Kerry has also asked to be allowed to make another lengthy speech in Paris later this month on the same subject as another failed president, Francois Hollande, launches an international peace conference on Palestine in Paris. Well, there is no reason why Hollande should be denied the fig-leaf that Obama and Kerry try to procure for themselves in the name of Palestine.

Obama, Kerry and Hollande are not the first to try to look heroic at the expense of the Palestinians, and the Israelis who suffer and die in a 70-year old zugzwang carted by the so-called international community which has told Arabs, and more specifically Palestinians, that they need do nothing themselves to achieve a peace settlement with Israel: the UN is there to do the work by passing endless resolutions with no mechanism for implementation.

For people far from the conflict and with no real interest in it, adopting a heroic posture at the expense of the Palestinians, or the Israelis for that matter, is no big deal.

The problem is that such heroism bought at the expense of others who pay with their lives could only prolong a conflict that might have been resolved decades ago hadn’t others, starting with the British, the UN, the Arab League, the US, Soviets etc. not intervened, often with empty promises or self-centered schemes, on one side or another.

The Obama-Kerry tandem may yet engage in other shenanigans before they ride into the sunset. Their political careers over in disaster across the board, they have nothing to lose by posing as peacemakers while settling personals scores on the side.

The Palestinians and Israelis should learn that no outsider, even with the best of intentions, which is not the case with Obama and Kerry, could solve their problems for them. It is up to the Palestinians and Israelis to decide whether they could live together and on what terms. Big speeches and meaningless resolutions might camouflage that fact for a while but won’t deprive it of its urgency.

(Source / 06.01.2017)

Written by altahrir

January 6, 2017 at 6:05 pm

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Saracens and Turks: The West’s troubled relation with Islam

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The language used to write about Islam is modern but its content is still largely medieval, argues Soumaya Ghannoushi

Why are negative images of Islam more prevalent than any others in the West? Why is it acceptable to say things about Muslims that would simply be deemed unacceptable of Jews, Hindus or Buddhists for instance?

In order to answer these questions, we need to delve deep into the structures of western consciousness and uncover what lies beneath its outer surfaces. No doubt political problems and the nature of political conflicts relating to the Muslim world in the near and distant past have played a significant role in defining Western perceptions of Islam, but these conceptions do not evolve in a vacuum. Rather, they emerged within a tradition stretching many centuries back.

The truth is that much of what is said of Islam today is medieval in origin. The terms might have a modern ring to them, but the content remains very much medieval in essence. The roots stretch as far back as the 7th century, to Christianity’s earliest encounter with Islam.

Saracens & Ishmaelites: Early medieval Christianity & Islam

Confronted with the massive military, political and religious challenge of Islam, medieval Christian authors elaborated an extensive body of polemics, apologetics and refutations to combat the growing danger of apostasy among their flock, where legend mingled with fact; myth with reality.

The Christianity that confronted Islam was not a blank page, but possessed a rich and intensely colourful stock of interpretations, symbols and myths. Both consciously and unconsciously, Christians resorted to this enormous repository in their attempt to bestow meaning on the phenomenon of Islam before even getting to know it.

Pope Francis visits the Hagia Sophia Mosque on 29 November, 2014 in Istanbul

Christianity’s early understanding of Islam was governed by the theoretical and theological models that regulated the image and position of the Other within Christian theology.

‘The language is modern, but its content is largely medieval’

Before the emergence of Islam, Christianity had constructed a set of categories that determined the religious Other amidst its brutal conflicts with heresies and paganisms. All Christianity did was to summon this arsenal of theoretical models and postulates to combat the new Islamic challenge.

Islam was to be fitted into the existing categories of Jew, pagan and heretic. Elements that did not fit comfortably within the pre-established schema were to be ignored.

To medieval Christianity, Islam was the point of intersection of all these categories, the Other par excellence: a corrupted Judaism, perverted Christianity, and wild natural paganism all at once, both the enemy within and without.

The Turk Baying at the Gate

Although Europe’s earliest encounter with Islam dates as far back as the late 7th and early 8th centuries when the Iberian Peninsula was subdued to the Pyrenees and the whole of Provence was conquered, Islam only began to impinge vividly on European consciousness with the first Ottoman campaigns into the heart of Europe.

In an age fraught with the tragedy of religious schism, which fuelled countless political conflicts between papists and reformists, Islam was invited as the symbol of the enemy within.

To the reformists, Islam was synonymous with the whole deviation and moral corruption of the papacy: pride, greed, violence, and lust for power and possession. But in order to demonise the new ideas of its enemies, who were rapidly growing in popularity, the Roman Catholic Church could not find a worse charge than Muhammadism.

The Muslim “Saracen” that had haunted Eastern Christians was now replaced by the “Turk” who dealt a powerful blow to Christian consciousness with the capture of the greatest of medieval cities: Constantinople and the collapse of Byzantium.

A Turkish riot policeman stands guard with his rifle in front of The Bilgi University before a Turkish and a European Union flag in Istanbul on 11 March, 2006

The Reformation, which had dissolved Christian society into a multitude of warring sects, made it increasingly difficult for 16th century Christians to subscribe to the concept of “the common corps of Christendom”. The religious schisms of the century coincided with what seemed at the time as the irresistible progress of Ottoman armies.

This stimulated a process of self-examination. Members of those societies that came under mounting Turkish pressure increasingly identified and distinguished themselves from the Ottoman enemy by reference to what was commonly described in humanist and literary circles as “European values”.

Writing in the middle of the sixteenth century, Erasmus exhorted “the nations of Europe,” no longer addressing them as the constituent powers of Christendom, to a crusade against the Turks.

Theology secularised

This heralded the transition from “Europe” as a neutral geographical term to a cultural term of identification; and the shift from “Christendom” to “Europe,” from a religious to a secular term of identification.

The Reformation, which may be regarded as the catalyst for the emergence of what we know as modern Europe, was also the bridge via which medieval notions of Islam have been transmitted to us today.

The medieval Christian view of Islam as a deviant, violent, licentious, and heretical creed was secularised, stripped of its transcendental character and rearticulated within a modern essentialist philosophy that continues to define the terms of Western discourse on Islam – in its mainstream at least.

A supporter of the PEGIDA movement holds a cross painted in German national colours during a protest rally on 5 October, 2015 in front of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in downtown Dresden, eastern Germany

The correspondence between what is said and written today and the medieval texts we have inherited on the subject of Islam is so striking that I often have to remind myself that it is not the words of a medieval author I am reading, but those of a contemporary writer. True, the language is modern, but its content is largely medieval.

Equally astounding is the similarity of views of Islam these contemporary writers express, liberals and conservatives, religious and atheists alike. The irony is that ideological divides are meaningless when it comes to the subject of Islam.

The ‘white man’s burden’

As the world was ushered into the era of imperialism, and as Europe began its relentless political, economic and military expansion, Islam turned into an object of knowledge in opposition to the Occident as its negative pole.

To assert its uniqueness and cultural superiority in relation to a world it was invading, Europe expelled outside of itself all that it perceived as undesirable and deviant.

Islam and Muslim societies were essentialised into a permanent, unitary and coherent object, understood through a series of contrasts and dichotomies. Islam became the West’s antithesis, a chaotic realm of raving instincts, emotionalism, irrationality and despotism that embodied all that the West is not.

Knowledge does not take place in a vacuum. It is both a generator and an effect of power structures and power relations.

To represent the world of Islam as barbaric leads to the logical conclusion that it desperately needs the intervention of the forces of reason and civility for some order and stability.

Lutz Bachmann, co-founder of Germany’s xenophobic and anti-Islamic PEGIDA movement attends a rally on 26 September, 2016 in Dresden

Interference in the affairs of those who inhabit this bleak sphere becomes not only legitimate, but desirable and benevolent.

The brutal colonisation of other lands, cleansing of their inhabitants, exploitation and usurpation of their resources, and destruction of their rich stock of institutions and cultural heritage are no longer heinous crimes, but noble evangelical “civilising missions”, the “white man’s burden”.

Much to contrary of the oft-repeated claim that Western consciousness has broken free from the medieval grip of the sacred, its outlook on Islam has remained quintessentially Christian and medieval.

All secularisation did was recycle the wild, sparse notions of “Saracens” and “Turks” within a new, profane, and modern language.

An identity Crisis

The different strands of this vision of Islam, stretching many centuries back, are today recalled in myriad forms. The negative dormant images of Saracens and Turks are awakened amongst the crises raging around the Muslim world and amidst the rise of terrorism and the violence generated by foreign military interventions and religious conflicts in the region.

Images of the threatening Muslim Other are activated amidst the anxieties of European identity, as it grapples with a changing world where wealth is rapidly shifting eastwards and living standards continuously deteriorate at home; a world of eroding geographic and cultural borders due to the process of globalisation and movement of immigration.

President-Elect Donald Trump looks on in Des Moines, Iowa on 8 December, 2016 during the USA Thank You Tour 2016 at the Hy-Vee Hall in the Iowa Events Center

The ascent of the far-right in Europe and the United States is in reality only a symptom of the great tensions seething in the West’s guts as it struggles to maintain its grip in a world growing more unrecognisable by the day.

The truth is that discourse of the “Muslim threat” says more about the West and its perceptions of itself and position in the world than it does about Islam or Muslims.

(Source / 01.01.2017)

Written by altahrir

January 1, 2017 at 1:45 pm

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