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Ed Webb

The profitable occupation, and why it is never discussed - 1 views

  • an estimate of the direct and indirect Israeli income from the occupation. Nobody could seriously question the existence of such revenues: From the Israeli companies directly involved in excavating and selling natural resources from the occupied territories – the most prominent example being Ahava beauty products (report, PDF) and a recent Supreme Court ruling even allowed mining Palestinian land in order to satisfy the need of the growing Israeli real-estate market – to the captive market the Palestinian represents for Israel (household Israeli brands can be found anywhere in the West Bank and Gaza). Water is one of the much-needed resources in the Middle East: No less than 80 percent of the Mountain Aquifer – located underneath the West Bank – is used by Israel and the Israeli settlements, and only 20 percent goes to the Palestinian population. (The average Israeli’s water consumption is 3.5-times that of a Palestinian’s.) Still, the main economic benefit Israel draws from its control over the West Bank is hidden in plain sight – we are talking the most expensive, most desired resource here: land.
  • Parts of the West Bank literally became the new suburbs of Tel Aviv.
  • with very few exceptions, Jerusalem is also expanding north, east and south, almost exclusively beyond the Green Line. Currently, half a million Jews live in the occupied West Bank, many of them in government-subsidized projects in the Jerusalem area. One could only imagine the cost of the same projects if they were to be located in proper Israel, especially if the proximity to the metropolitan centers was to be kept
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  • The bottom line is that the control over the West Bank, East Jerusalem and to a lesser extent, Gaza, has substantial value to Israel, one that might even surpass the economic burden posed by the occupation
  • In the early 1990s, land and real estate prices in Israel skyrocketed because of  immigration from the former USSR. One solution Israeli governments – including dovish ones – turned to was the West Bank, but by doing so they were undermining their own effort to separate the West Bank from the rest of Israel. It is also no coincidence that Palestinian resistance erupted in places like Bil’in or Ni’lin, whose land was confiscated for those very same projects, or that the ultra-Orthodox population that was sent to populate those houses is moving further and further to the political right, becoming almost one with the settler movement
  • we never hear about the way the blockade serves Israeli economical interests, only about the security needs
  • Ignoring the benefit to Israel from the occupation serves to blur its colonialist nature
  • (cheap labor is another “benefit” of the occupation which I didn’t discuss here)
  • It’s not always enough to oppose the occupation – one needs to understand its appeal as well. I have written in the past on the Israeli addiction to the political status quo, especially on the Palestinian question. I think that an honest analysis of the cost and benefits of Israeli control over the West Bank would support the notion that the occupation represents an Israeli interest, and therefore would never come to an end as a result of an internal Israeli process alone.
Ed Webb

This Palestinian Brewery Is Resisting Military Occupation, One Beer at a Time - MUNCHIES - 0 views

  • Palestine’s Taybeh Brewery successfully transported 50-kilogram kegs of beer across military checkpoints on donkeys while an increasingly violent and repressive occupation escalated around them
  • The brewery had to purchase tanks of water to produce beer. Canaan says the cost was 7 times the amount what an Israeli company would have paid. “It limits our potential for expansion, it limits our export market. We simply cannot produce more beer,”
  • 25 years ago, during a period of optimism following the Oslo peace accords, the Khoury family returned to their homeland from Boston to open the first microbrewery in the Middle East. Their goal was to invest in and boost the local economy by introducing new styles of hand-crafted, micro-brewed beers. In 1994, the brewery bottled its first batch of beer—500 liters in total.
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  • the company produces 600,000 liters of beer each year and exports to 12 countries— including Japan, Germany, and the US
  • “We were determined to show the whole world that Palestinians are normal and want the right to practice our daily needs—to have a beer, to go to school, to have running water,”
  • The inequalities of water access on Israeli settlements, built on land captured in the 1967 war, can be extreme. Despite the population nearly doubling, Palestinians today survive on the amount of water allocated to them in the Interim Agreement of 1995. Contrary to the unfulfilled promise of a ‘temporary’ 5-year period before the establishment of a Palestinian state, Israel continues to retain 87% of water for exclusive use, controlling every well and pipeline in the West Bank. Since beer is almost 95% water, Taybeh brewery struggles under these restrictions.
  • “We have three settlements on Taybeh land and they have priority access to the water. We cannot schedule any brewing days because we never know when water will be available,”
  • “I don’t think that any brewery in the world has ever had to take beer through checkpoints on a donkey. We did it. Because there was a bar that said, ‘I want Taybeh.’ The roads were closed and no cars could pass.”
  • Taybeh has figured out how to eke out beer from less than 4 liters, reusing the water multiple times in production
  • “Because we’re under occupation, we can’t go through any road, we have to get permits, we have to go through commercial checkpoints, we have to pay extra fees for storage and security checks,” Canaan says.As a result, getting beer from the brewery to the port costs twice as much as getting it from the port to Italy does.
  • Taybeh brewery sells their beer as a product of Palestine all over the world—including Israel. The only exception is the United States. Since they don’t recognize Palestine as a country, Taybeh was made to change the label to ‘a product of the West Bank.’
  • “With Taybeh, you are getting the name Palestine, and a high-quality product out there. You are changing the way people see Palestinians.”
  • In February, Taybeh was expecting a bottle shipment from Eastern Europe. Israeli breweries also had an order on the same vessel. “We both had the same documents, same quality, same company. Everything was exactly the same. Yet, the Israeli breweries received their bottles roughly 2 months before we received ours,” Madees says. “Doing business in this country is unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s more difficult, and every year it gets worse and worse.
  • Canaan and Madees are children of the Intifada: the lost generation. Living in Taybeh, on average it took them 2 hours to get to school in Ramallah—normally a 20-minute drive. “I’ve been through a lot on the way there, from getting tear gassed, shot at and beaten, to getting psychologically tortured by the soldiers and having to stand up on one foot, take off my shirt and so on,” Canaan recalls.
  • every single element of the brewing process is compromised by the occupation
Ed Webb

Why a One-State Solution is the Only Solution - 0 views

  • As he tried to rescue what had become known as “the peace process,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that the two-state solution had one to two years left before it would no longer be viable. That was six years ago. Resolution 2334, which the UN Security Council passed with U.S. consent in late 2016, called for “salvaging the two-state solution” by demanding a number of steps, including an immediate end to Israeli settlement building in the occupied territories. That was three years ago. And since then, Israel has continued to build and expand settlements.
  • What Trump had in mind has become clear in the years that have followed, as he and his team have approved a right-wing Israeli wish list aimed at a one-state outcome—but one that will enshrine Israeli dominance over Palestinian subjects, not one that will grant the parties equal rights. 
  • Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel has abandoned any pretense of seeking a two-state solution, and public support for the concept among Israelis has steadily dwindled. Palestinian leaders continue to seek a separate state. But after years of failure and frustration, most Palestinians no longer see that path as viable.
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  • Netanyahu and Trump are seeking not to change the status quo but merely to ratify it
  • the only moral path forward is to recognize the full humanity of both peoples
  • Between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea live approximately 13 million people, all under the control of the Israeli state. Roughly half of them are Palestinian Arabs, some three million of whom live under a military occupation with no right to vote for the government that rules them and around two million of whom live in Israel as second-class citizens, discriminated against based on their identity, owing to Israel’s status as a Jewish state. Two million more Palestinians live in the besieged Gaza Strip, where the militant group Hamas exercises local rule: an open-air prison walled off from the world by an Israeli blockade.
  • the dilemmas posed by partition long predate 1967 and stem from a fundamentally insoluble problem. For the better part of a century, Western powers—first the United Kingdom and then the United States—have repeatedly tried to square the same circle: accommodating the Zionist demand for a Jewish-majority state in a land populated overwhelmingly by Palestinians. This illogical project was made possible by a willingness to dismiss the humanity and rights of the Palestinian population and by sympathy for the idea of creating a space for Jews somewhere outside Europe—a sentiment that was sometimes rooted in an anti-Semitic wish to reduce the number of Jews in the Christian-dominated West.
  • among Jewish Israelis, annexation is not a controversial idea. A recent poll showed that 48 percent of them support steps along the lines of what Netanyahu proposed; only 28 percent oppose them. Even Netanyahu’s main rival, the centrist Blue and White alliance, supports perpetual Israeli control of the Jordan Valley. Its leaders’ response to Netanyahu’s annexation plan was to complain that it had been their idea first. 
  • one national intelligence estimate drawn up by U.S. agencies judged that if Israel continued the occupation and settlement building for “an extended period, say two to three years, it will find it increasingly difficult to relinquish control.” Pressure to hold on to the territories “would grow, and it would be harder to turn back to the Arabs land which contained such settlements.” That estimate was written more than 50 years ago, mere months after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank began. Nevertheless, Israel has forged ahead with its expansion and has enjoyed unflinching U.S. support, even as Israeli officials periodically warned about its irreversibility. 
  • Under Oslo, the Palestinians have had to rely on the United States to treat Israel with a kind of tough love that American leaders, nervous about their domestic support, have never been able to muster.
  • As the failure of the peace process became clearer over time, Palestinians rose up against the occupation—sometimes violently. Israel pointed to those reactions to justify further repression. But the cycle was enabled by Palestinian leaders who resigned themselves to having to prove to Israel’s satisfaction that Palestinians were worthy of self-determination—something to which all peoples are in fact entitled.
  • Today, large numbers of Israelis support keeping much of the occupied territories forever
  • the nakba—the “catastrophe.” The 19 years that followed might be the only time in the past two millennia that the land of Palestine was actually divided. None of the great powers who had ruled over the territory—the Romans, the Byzantines, the Umayyads, the Abbasids, the Fatimids, the crusaders, the Ayyubids, the Mameluks, the Ottomans, the British—had ever divided Gaza from Jerusalem, Nablus from Nazareth, or Jericho from Jaffa. Doing so never made sense, and it still doesn’t. Indeed, when Israel took control of the territories in 1967, it actually represented a return to a historical norm of ruling the land as a single unit. But it did so with two systems, one for Jewish Israelis and the other for the people living on the land that the Israelis had conquered.
  • in the wake of the Holocaust, a UN partition plan presented a similar vision, with borders drawn to create a Jewish-majority state and with the Palestinians again divided into multiple entities. 
  • This formulation contained a fundamental flaw, one that would mar all future partition plans, as well: it conceived of the Jews as a people with national rights but did not grant the same status to the Palestinians. The Palestinian population could therefore be moved around and dismembered, because they were not a people deserving of demographic cohesion.
  • Actual progress in the talks would threaten Jewish control of the land, something that has proved more important to Israel than democracy.
  • Having led the armed struggle against Israel for decades, Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization was known and accepted by ordinary Palestinians. By the late 1980s, however, the group had become a shell of its former self. Already isolated by its exile in Tunisia, the PLO became even weaker in 1990 after its wealthy patrons in the Gulf cut funding when Arafat backed Saddam Hussein’s grab for Kuwait. On the ground in the territories, meanwhile, the first intifada—a grassroots revolt against the occupation—was making news and threatening to displace the PLO as the face of Palestinian resistance. By embracing the Oslo process, Arafat and his fellow PLO leaders found a personal path back to influence and relevance—while trapping the Palestinian community in a bind that has held them back ever since.
  • The time has come for the Palestinian Authority to abandon its advocacy of a two-state solution, an idea that has become little more than a fig leaf for the United States and other great powers to hide behind while they allow Israel to proceed with de facto apartheid.
  • Some will object that such a shift in strategy would undercut the hard-won consensus, rooted in decades of activism and international law, that the Palestinians have a right to their own state. That consensus, however, has produced little for the Palestinians. Countless UN resolutions have failed to stop Israeli settlements or gain Palestinians a state, so they wouldn’t be losing much. And in a one-state solution worthy of the name, Palestinians would win full equality under the law, so they would be gaining a great deal. 
  • A poll conducted last year by the University of Maryland found that Americans were roughly evenly split between supporting a two-state solution and supporting a one-state solution with equal rights for all inhabitants. Yet when asked what they preferred if a two-state solution were not possible (which it isn’t), the status quo or one state with equal rights, they chose the latter by a two-to-one margin. 
  • Israelis would benefit from a shift to such a state, as well. They, too, would gain security, stability, and growth, while also escaping international isolation and reversing the moral rot that the occupation has produced in Israeli society. At the same time, they would maintain connections to historical and religious sites in the West Bank. Most Israelis would far prefer to perpetuate the status quo. But that is just not possible. Israel cannot continue to deny the rights of millions of Palestinians indefinitely and expect to remain a normal member of the international community.
  • not only a new state but also a new constitution. That would both demonstrate their commitment to democracy and highlight Israel’s lack of the same. When the country was founded in 1948, Zionist leaders were trying to expedite the arrival of more Jews, prevent the return of Palestinians, and seize as much land as possible. They had no interest in defining citizenship criteria, rights, or constraints on government power. So instead of writing a constitution, the Jewish state instituted a series of “basic laws” in an ad hoc fashion, and these have acquired some constitutional weight over time.
  • Israelis and Palestinians should work together to craft a constitution that would uphold the rights of all.
  • despite national narratives and voices on either side that claim otherwise, both peoples have historical ties to the land
  • A new constitution could offer citizenship to all the people currently living in the land between the river and the sea and to Palestinian refugees and would create pathways for immigrants from elsewhere to become citizens. All citizens would enjoy full civil and political rights, including the freedom of movement, religion, speech, and association. And all would be equal before the law: the state would be forbidden from discriminating on the basis of ethnicity or religion.
  • they would be subject to a very high bar for amendment—say, a requirement of at least 90 percent approval in the legislative branch. This would ensure that basic rights could not be altered by means of a simple majority and would prohibit any one group from using a demographic advantage to alter the nature of the state.
  • the new state would also need a truth-and-reconciliation process focused on restorative justice
  • How many more decades of failure must we endure before we can safely conclude that partition is a dead end?
Ed Webb

The Israel-Hezbollah Channel - 0 views

  • Israel and Lebanon have a long history of tension: officially, they have been at war without interruption since 1948, and they have not agreed on an officially demarcated border—nor, after several wars, have they formally agreed to a cease-fire. Nevertheless, a strange forum for conflict management has grown up between them. Since 2006, when UNIFIL was reauthorized by UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701, peacekeepers have presided over more than one hundred tripartite meetings, which bring together officers from Israel, Lebanon, and UNIFIL to manage disputes and technical issues along the Blue Line.5 The primary belligerents along the border are Hezbollah and the Israeli military, but the Lebanese military serves as Hezbollah’s interlocutors in what has become known as the Tripartite Process.
  • In a region rife with standing conflicts between belligerents who have little or no direct channels of communication, UNIFIL provides a rare example of conflict management in an extremely unstable and opaque environment. Its track record offers some suggestions of promising approaches to manage and mitigate conflict, while avoiding unwanted escalation. But it also offers stark warnings of the limitations of a narrow and indirect approach in the absence of enduring cease-fires, treaties, or other more robust conflict-resolution mechanisms
  • its newly muscular force with strong international political backing created perhaps the only sustained, regular, and efficacious channel of communications between Middle East belligerents in an active conflict
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  • UNIFIL makes a precarious model for conflict management. Despite its successes, both Israel and Hezbollah routinely attack UNIFIL’s legitimacy in public. The population of southern Lebanon expresses widespread skepticism about the peacekeeping mission’s intentions and loyalties, despite the benefits they reap from UNIFIL, which not only reduces conflict but serves as the area’s largest employer.11 Many residents of southern Lebanon and supporters of Hezbollah believe that UNIFIL serves Israeli and American interests and is unlikely to act to protect civilians during future conflicts
  • The original UNIFIL mission deployed in 1978 with three missions: to confirm Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, to restore “international peace and security,” and to restore the authority of the government of Lebanon in the border region. None of these missions were achieved. Israel never fully withdrew, and in 1982 extended its occupation deeper into Lebanese territory. On the Lebanese side, state authority no longer existed, as the nation was riven by the 1975–90 civil war. A quisling militia eventually known as the South Lebanon Army served as an Israeli proxy.13 Hezbollah formed in 1982 in response to the Israeli occupation, and over the following decade grew into the dominant local force fighting Israel. Lebanon’s national army was reconstituted after the Taif Agreement of 1989 paved the way for an end to the country’s civil war. Even as other militias disbanded or had their fighters absorbed into the regular military, Hezbollah alone maintained an autonomous militia. Israel still occupied about one-tenth of Lebanon’s territory, along the southern border, and Hezbollah continued to lead the armed resistance. In 2000, Israel finally withdrew from most of Lebanese territory, but continued to occupy high ground on the mountain of Jabal al-Sheikh, known as Shebaa Farms, as well as the village of Ghajar, which contains critical water sources.14 Later, it also claimed some Lebanese territorial waters in an area where underwater oil and gas exploration is underway.15 Citing Israel’s continuing occupation, as well as the Israeli air force’s daily overflights of Lebanon, Hezbollah spurned calls from some of its Lebanese rivals to disarm or integrate into the national army.16 Tensions regularly flared along the border, and finally boiled over into war in July 2006.
  • Initially, Hezbollah preferred a UN resolution that would leave it sovereign in southern Lebanon. But Lebanon’s government, and significant quarters of Lebanese public opinion, wanted to reassert state sovereignty in the zone of southern Lebanon that hitherto had been solely under Hezbollah’s control. Israel and the United States, by contrast, entered the cease-fire negotiations with unrealistic hopes that they could achieve through peacekeeping what they had failed to do through violence: disarm Hezbollah
  • UNSCR 1701, which led to a cessation of hostilities on August 14, 2006
  • Immediately upon implementing the cease-fire, UNIFIL peacekeepers initiated a process that was not specified in the new mandate but which has become, in the eleven years since the cessation of hostilities until the time of this writing, the most successful element of the mission: the standing, direct negotiations between the Israeli and Lebanese militaries, under UN auspices
  • this somewhat informal mechanism has now met more than one hundred times without a single walkout from either side. It appears to be the only place where Israeli and Lebanese officials formally and directly interact
  • In the context of the Middle East, this forum is especially remarkable. Most of the region’s running conflicts lack even tactical communication between adversaries. Relatively straightforward arrangements such as temporary cease-fires, prisoner exchanges, or safe passage for civilians have been tortuous and at times virtually impossible in regional conflicts. Belligerents often refuse to recognize each other even on a most basic level. If Israel and Lebanon (and, by extension, Hezbollah) have managed to build a rudimentary channel despite their history and the political obstacles to communication, then perhaps—using a similar approach—other belligerents in the region might also inaugurate conflict-­management channels or CBMs.
  • Its approximately 10,500 troops generate economic activity for southern Lebanon; after the Lebanese government, UNIFIL is the largest employer in the area.
  • Hezbollah is a regional military power, operating in tandem with Iran as infantry or trainers in Iraq, Yemen, and possibly elsewhere. In Syria, Hezbollah has played perhaps the most critical military role on the government’s side. Inside Lebanon, Hezbollah has moved from being a strong faction to being the strongest, today holding the balance of power domestically, with the ability to dominate the complex political negotiations that determine who holds the presidency. In 2013, the European Union as a whole joined Israel, the United States, and some individual European governments in listing Hezbollah’s “armed wing” as a terrorist group. (Hezbollah itself denies it has any separate armed wing, making such a designation tantamount to naming the entire organization.)
  • UNIFIL’s best direct relationship is with the Lebanese Army. It cannot officially communicate with Hezbollah, and its channels to the Israeli military, while stronger than before 2006, are still limited
  • On one hand, Hezbollah and Israel have both benefited from UNIFIL’s core functions: development projects for poor denizens of the border region; demarcation of the Blue Line; deconfliction, de-escalation, conflict management, and communication between belligerents; intelligence gathering; and a unique forum in which armies from two nations at war routinely meet for direct talks and resolve technical issues even as the political conflict between their governments continues unabated. On the other hand, both belligerents routinely have undermined UNIFIL, attacking its legitimacy and performance in public forums while praising it in private; engaging in prohibited military operations; and refusing to extend any political support to the negotiations that they joined at a military level.
  • “It’s a conflict-management institution, not a conflict-resolution institution,” observed Timur Goksel, a UNIFIL veteran who worked with the mission over the course of two decades and has been based in both Israel and Lebanon. “It offers adversaries a way out. They can use UNIFIL as an excuse. It opens a way out of major conflict. This is what UNIFIL is all about.”
  • The disputed village of Ghajar, which has long been a flashpoint between the two sides, exemplifies the limits of the existing channels of communication and negotiation. The Blue Line passes directly through the village. Its inhabitants are Alawites who previously lived under Syrian rule on territory that today is claimed by Lebanon.36 Israel currently controls the entire village. Israeli presence in the northern half of Ghajar entails a permanent violation of the Blue Line. The situation is further complicated by the lack of pressure from the village’s residents, who appear content to operate as part of Israel. Israel has committed in principle to withdrawing from the northern portion of the village, but the details of how to do that have eluded all parties.37
  • Hezbollah operates in southern Lebanon with full independence. It might defer to the Lebanese Army or UNIFIL in order to avoid embarrassment or minor mishaps, but it can freely circumvent even the most symbolic of checks
  • Hezbollah continues to hold sovereign power of arms and operates without limitation from the government of Lebanon, UNIFIL, or any other force
  • Hezbollah has greatly increased its military capacity since joining the Syrian war as a pivotal combatant in 2012. The Lebanese nonstate actor has emerged as the premier urban combat and infantry force on the side of the Syrian government. It has engaged in wide-scale maneuver warfare, and has engaged in integrated warfare, involving air force support, with professional forces from Iran, Russia, and Syria. Hezbollah has helped form new militias and has led coordinated assaults with militia support involving groups and fighters from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere.45 Reports suggest that Hezbollah has also acquired a new arsenal of long-range missiles and land-to-sea missiles, which greatly increases its deterrent capacity against Israel and could enable it to threaten more Israeli targets than it could in 2006
  • With the Syrian war potentially entering a closing phase, from which Hezbollah and the Syrian government will emerge victorious, several analysts have refocused their attention on the latent Israel-Hezbollah conflict
  • Israel and Lebanon are formally still at war, and no closer to a permanent cease-fire than they were when UNSCR 1701 came into force on August 14, 2006. Whereas the Israeli government and military are unitary actors on one side of the Blue Line, the other side has a bedeviling array of potential belligerents with competing interests. These possible participants include but are not limited to Hezbollah, the Lebanese government, Palestinian factions, the Syrian government, and possibly some Syrian rebel factions, although most Syrian rebels in the Golan have either cooperated with Israel or remained neutral. UNIFIL can call the Lebanese Army to settle a crisis, but then must rely on the Lebanese Army, itself strained by pressures stemming from the war in Syria, to make effective contact with other players
  • Whether technical talks and a bare-bones conflict-management channel can, in fact, shift the political opportunities is precisely the question raised by UNIFIL’s record since 2006. UNIFIL’s example suggests that military-military talks have utility but are unlikely to drive political resolution. The UNIFIL model may be a promising approach for conflicts between belligerents with strained or nonexistent diplomatic relations, but it is a model for managing conflict and avoiding unintended escalations, not for resolving conflict and reversing escalations that are intentional or are based on mistrust and miscalculation
  • “It’s the only mission that speaks to two countries that are still at war,” noted one UNIFIL official. “This works if parties don’t want to go to war. It can’t prevent a war from happening.”
  • Unless a government or nonstate actor has openly and expressly deputized a military channel to negotiate a political resolution, there is no evidence that technical talks will prompt a political dialogue—simply because some participants hope for it to do so—much less a resolution
  • UNIFIL’s record as an arbiter or honest broker does not appear to have changed any policy position on the part of Hezbollah or the government of Israel. A technical channel cannot create a new political climate
  • UNIFIL’s conflict-management paradigm may, paradoxically, increase risks by leaving political problems unresolved. “There is no doubt the UNIFIL mission has acted as shock absorber for local tensions and maintained a negative peace, that is, it has prevented the escalation of minor incidents into large-scale conflict,” the researcher Vanessa Newby concluded after conducting fifty interviews of UNIFIL officials and others who deal with the mission.54 “But its presence appears to be sustaining the conditions of conflict more than it is resolving them.”
  • successfully bolstered the Lebanese military’s function and standing as a state institution
  • If either Hezbollah or Israel shifted its cost-benefit calculus and decided it was more preferable to go to war than maintain the status quo (as Israel had in advance of the summer of 2006), then UNIFIL’s mechanisms would provide almost no peacemaking or conflict-avoidance potential
  • Many of the Middle East’s conflict areas are plagued with similar problems and thus are ripe for UNIFIL-like channels, managed by neutral third parties that can avoid accidental escalations, act as a clearing house for airing grievances and seeking technical solutions to relatively small technical problems, and potentially manage aspects of open conflict if it emerges. Such channels could pave the way for delivering humanitarian aid in Yemen or exchanging prisoners in Syria. The model is for a standing body that is not ad hoc nor of limited duration, and thus can establish trust over multiple iterations of dialogue and conflict management.
  • the UNIFIL case illustrates the broader problem with applying a military (or security, or conflict-management) paradigm to inherently political problems. Such a forum can be an effective long-term intermediary, but only for tactical matters. The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah is a political one
  • The field of critical security studies has pushed the field of academic political science to incorporate political concerns into its definition of security, but minimized the hard security concerns that make life dangerous in conflict zones.55 The balance of security and politics is not merely a theoretical concern; it drives the persistence of deadly conflict in the Middle East. Both hard security and political grievance must be addressed, even if unfairly, in order to resolve a conflict. A similar dynamic shapes the need to address process as well as policy. A satisfactory forum is required for belligerents to talk at all. Forums like UNIFIL, or the Madrid Peace Conference (where parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict met in 1991), create the space and relationships that are a precondition for any substantial negotiation. Yet process does not suffice if no common policy framework can be reached on the central matters of dispute. No amount of tripartite meetings at the UNIFIL headquarters will compel the political leadership in Israel or Hezbollah to reformulate their core goals
  • The Middle East needs more UNIFILs, but it is crucial to keep in mind the limitations of a conflict-management approach if such forums are to be useful for advancing long-term security. They are no substitute for politics.
Ed Webb

Recognizing Israeli settlements is about sovereignty, and that's a game-changer - 0 views

  • If the Trump administration endorses annexation, a position in line with recognizing the legality of settlements, then the framework of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict changes and the issues of sovereignty and political rights will become front and center.
  • Without question, the new U.S. stance on settlements undermines international law, which is clear on the illegality of an occupying power transferring its population into occupied territory. The applicability of this tenet of the Fourth Geneva Convention to Israel-Palestine has been upheld by near-universal international consensus since the occupation began in 1967, including by the U.N. Security Council and the International Court of Justice.
  • the opinion of a single state — even the most powerful one — does not alter the law itself. As Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the U.N. Commissioner on Human Rights, responded to the Trump administration announcement, “a change in the policy of one state does not modify existing international law nor its interpretation by the International Court of Justice and Security Council.” If the rest of the world continues to adhere to the principle that the settlements are illegal, the decision will likely do more to undermine U.S. standing and leadership than the Geneva Convention or the law itself.
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  • while settlements certainly represent the largest physical obstacle to the establishment of a Palestinian state, the Trump decision hardly changes anything on this front. The U.S. has consistently failed to take action against settlements in order to protect the prospect for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Even at the height of the peace process in the 1990s, the Clinton administration permitted continued settlement-building to the point that the settler population tripled despite ongoing negotiations. While various administrations, such as those of George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama, pushed back against settlements, their efforts were never sustained and settlement-building ultimately carried on.
  • if Israeli settlements are not illegal, and Israelis are able to rightfully settle the land under Israel’s political and military control, then what does that mean for the stateless Palestinians who also live there and for Israel’s 52-year rule over them? In other words, if it is not military occupation, which undoubtedly prohibits the type of settlement that Israel has engaged in, then it is something else and the world should demand that Israel clarify its position and intentions over the territory.
  • It is, in part, the limbo of endless occupation that has doomed the Palestinians to political purgatory, without a state of their own but without citizenship in any other state. It is what differentiates Palestinians from so many other ethnic groups that live as minorities in the ethnic-national states of others. Take the Kurds, for example, who lack a state of their own but who are at the very least citizens of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere.
  • This murkiness has also allowed Israel to gradually take physical possession of the land through a colonial process under the cover of temporary occupation, without having to offer political rights to the native inhabitants of the land who live side by side with Israeli settlers. Yet if Israel is the recognized sovereign, then it can’t take legal possession of the land without all of the inhabitants. If it doesn’t want the Palestinians, then the land needed to create a viable alternative political entity for them to fulfill their rights is needed. Israel simply cannot have it both ways.
  • While the Palestinian political leadership still fully embraces a two-state solution, the majority of public opinion has shifted away from it. That could be a game changer, especially as the Netanyahu-led government in Israel looks ready to begin annexing the settlements, at the very minimum.
Ed Webb

Iraqis rise up against 16 years of 'made in the USA' corruption | openDemocracy - 1 views

  • Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi has announced he will resign, and Sweden has opened an investigation against Iraqi Defense Minister Najah Al-Shammari, who is a Swedish citizen, for crimes against humanity.
  • According to Al Jazeera, “protesters are demanding the overthrow of a political class seen as corrupt and serving foreign powers while many Iraqis languish in poverty without jobs, healthcare or education.” Only 36% of the adult population of Iraq have jobs, and despite the gutting of the public sector under US occupation, its tattered remnants still employ more people than the private sector, which fared even worse under the violence and chaos of the US's militarized shock doctrine.
  • while Iran has gained enormous influence and is one of the targets of the protests, most of the people ruling Iraq today are still the former exiles that the US flew in with its occupation forces in 2003, “coming to Iraq with empty pockets to fill” as a taxi-driver in Baghdad told a Western reporter at the time.
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  • The corruption of both US and Iraqi officials during the US occupation is well documented. UN Security Council resolution 1483 established a $20 billion Development Fund for Iraq using previously seized Iraqi assets, money left in the UN’s “oil for food” program and new Iraqi oil revenues. An audit by KPMG and a special inspector general found that a huge proportion of that money was stolen or embezzled by US and Iraqi officials.
  • Out of 198 contracts reviewed by the inspector general, only 44 had documentation to confirm the work was done.
  • The US Congress also budgeted $18.4 billion for reconstruction in Iraq in 2003, but apart from $3.4 billion diverted to "security," less than $1 billion of it was ever disbursed. Many Americans believe US oil companies have made out like bandits in Iraq, but that’s not true either. The plans that Western oil companies drew up with Vice President Cheney in 2001 had that intent, but a law to grant Western oil companies lucrative “production sharing agreements” (PSAs) worth tens of billions per year was exposed as a smash and grab raid and the Iraqi National Assembly refused to pass it.
  • Ayad Allawi and the INA were the instrument for the CIA’s hopelessly bungled military coup in Iraq in 1996. The Iraqi government followed every detail of the plot on a closed-circuit radio handed over by one of the conspirators and arrested all the CIA’s agents inside Iraq on the eve of the coup. It executed thirty military officers and jailed a hundred more, leaving the CIA with no human intelligence from inside Iraq.
  • Allawi and the INA are still involved in the horse-trading for senior positions after every election, despite never getting more than 8% of the votes - and only 6% in 2018.
  • The cost of rebuilding Mosul, Fallujah and other cities and towns is conservatively estimated at $88 billion. But despite $80 billion per year in oil exports and a federal budget of over $100 billion, the Iraqi government has allocated no money at all for reconstruction. Foreign, mostly wealthy Arab countries, have pledged $30 billion, including just $3 billion from the US, but very little of that has been, or may ever be, delivered.
Ed Webb

How Biden Kept Screwing Up Iraq, Over and Over and Over Again - 0 views

  • Reviewing Biden’s record on Iraq is like rewinding footage of a car crash to identify the fateful decisions that arrayed people at the bloody intersection. He was not just another Democratic hawk navigating the trauma of 9/11 in a misguided way. He didn’t merely call his vote for a disastrous war part of “a march to peace and security.” Biden got the Iraq war wrong before and throughout invasion, occupation, and withdrawal. Convenient as it is to blame Bush—who, to be clear, bears primary and eternal responsibility for the disaster—Biden embraced the Iraq war for what he portrayed as the result of his foreign policy principles and persisted, most often in error, for the same reasons. 
  • “I think the vast majority of the foreign policy community thinks [my record has] been very good.” That will be important context should Biden become president. He’s the favorite of many in Democratic foreign policy circles who believe in resetting the American geopolitical position to what it was the day before Trump was elected, rather than considering it critical context for why Trump was elected. 
  • National Democrats embraced the war on terrorism with enthusiasm and, with few exceptions, were disinclined to challenge Bush on foreign policy even as that foreign policy became more militant and extreme
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  • Biden’s hearings highlighted the dangers of occupation, such as the basic uncertainty around what would replace Saddam Hussein, as well as the bloody, long, and expensive commitment required to midwife a democratic Iraq. “In many ways, those hearings were remarkably prescient about what was to happen,” said Tony Blinken, Biden’s longtime aide on the committee and a deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration. “He and [GOP Sen. Richard] Lugar talked about not the day after but the decade after. If we did go in, they talked about the lack of a plan to secure any peace that followed the intervention.”
  • But the balance of expert testimony concerned guessing at Saddam’s weapons program, the pragmatic questions of invading, and the diplomatic legwork of an action whose justice—if not necessarily its wisdom—was presumed
  • the regnant foreign policy consensus in America: Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and had sealed his fate by doing so. It was an enormous factual mistake born out of an inability to see that Saddam believed that transparent disarmament would spell his doom at the hands of Iran. This misapprehension led advocates to accept that the U.S.—preferably with others, but alone if necessary—was justified or even obligated to get rid of Saddam
  • Bush’s secretary of state, Colin Powell, convinced the White House to attempt securing United Nations support for the war. It was a cynical maneuver: the Security Council could accept additional weapons inspections but not war; Bush could claim he tried for an internationalist solution before invading unilaterally. Its primary effect was to legitimize the war in the eyes of uncomfortable congressional Democrats who had made the tactical error of disputing the war for insufficient multilateralism rather than arguing it was wrong
  • For Biden, the critical point, “what this is about,” was America daring to “enforce” U.N. Security Council disarmament resolutions that the U.N. was saying did not justify war. When the world stood against America, in the forum Biden considered critical and Bush considered pretextual, America would simply act in the world’s name. He approvingly quoted the infamous Henry Kissinger: “As the most powerful nation in the world, the United States has a special, unilateral capacity, and indeed obligation, to lead in implementing its convictions, but it also has a special obligation to justify its actions by principles that transcend the assertions of preponderance of power.” America’s confidence in its nobility was, in the end, all the justification it required. 
  • Biden acknowledged that the “imminence and inevitability” of the threat Iraq posed was “exaggerated,” although that recognition was irrelevant to both his reasoning and his vote. He performed an end-zone dance over Bush advisers who favored what he called the doctrine of preemption—a euphemism for wars of aggression—as if his vote did not authorize exactly the preemptive war those advisers wanted. The trouble Biden saw was that elevating preemption to a foreign policy “doctrine” would grant “every nation an unfettered right of preemption.” Left unsaid was that it would be better for America to keep that unfettered right for itself.
  • Biden was unprepared to break from prevention, which is always the prerogative of hegemonic powers. Boxed in, he continued to argue that the trouble was Bush elevating preemption to centrality in foreign policy, and fretted that predatory states would cite that “doctrine” to prey on weaker ones. He neglected to see that all those states needed was the example of the Iraq war itself. Eleven years later, when Biden was vice president, Vladimir Putin cited Iraq as a reason the U.S. had no standing to criticize him for invading Ukraine. 
  • Iraq was an abstraction to Biden—as it was, ironically, to the neoconservatives Biden had criticized—a canvas on which to project theories of American power
  • Nothing that followed went the way Biden expected. Bush did not share Biden’s distinction between the U.N. weapons-inspection process and the invasion. Iraq did not passively accept its occupation. And Biden did not reap the political benefit of endorsing the war that seemed so obvious to the Democratic consultant class in the autumn of 2002. 
  • Biden praised the leadership of the Coalition Provisional Authority, a shockingly corrupt and incompetent organization. Its chief, Jerry Bremer, was “first-rate,” Biden said mere months after Bremer disbanded the Iraqi army, the greatest gift America could have given the insurgency
  • Rebuilding Iraq’s police force was left to former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, whom Biden called “a serious guy with a serious team.” Iraq’s police would soon become indistinguishable from sectarian death squads; Kerik would soon plead guilty to tax fraud and other federal corruption charges
  • By the next summer, with Iraq in flames, Biden continued his misdiagnosis. The original sin wasn’t the war itself, it was Bush’s stewardship—the same stewardship Biden praised in 2002. “Because we waged a war in Iraq virtually alone, we are responsible for the aftermath virtually alone,” he thundered at the 2004 Democratic convention. The intelligence “was hyped to justify going to war,” Biden continued, causing “America’s credibility and security [to] have suffered a terrible blow.” Yet Biden made no call for withdrawal. It was easier to pretend that Bush was waging a different war than the one he empowered Bush to wage. 
  • The U.S., unable to win the war it chose, would be better off reshaping the map of Iraq into something that better suited it. The proposal was a natural outgrowth of viewing Iraq as an abstraction. Now that Iraq had undermined American power, Iraq would be subject to a kind of dismemberment, a theoretically cleaner problem to solve than a civil war or a weak client state. In September 2007, Biden prevailed upon his fellow senators to endorse his proposal on a staggering 75-23 vote. There was no support for the idea among actual Iraqis outside Kurdistan, but they were beside the imperial point.
  • 2007 saw Biden’s most valorous act on Iraq. With the war a morass, Biden secured $23 billion, far more than the Pentagon requested, to buy Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, whose hull design proved more survivable against the insurgency’s improvised bombs. Replacing insufficiently armored Humvees with MRAPs was “a passion,” he said. While the number of lives MRAPs saved over the course of the program’s $45 billion lifespan has been disputed, the Pentagon estimated in 2012 that over 2,000 service members are alive today because of the vehicle. Biden counted securing the funding for the MRAP among his greatest congressional achievements.
  • Barack Obama had opposed the Iraq war, but was hardly afflicted with the “distrust of the use of American power” that Biden feared in 2004. Selecting Biden as his vice president laundered Biden’s reputation. No longer was Biden the man whose faith in American exceptionalism had driven the U.S. into a morass. He was the lovable uncle in aviators who washed his metaphorical Trans Am on the White House lawn. Obama gave him responsibility for a three-year project of U.S. withdrawal, one that Biden considers an accomplishment. 
  • Biden and other U.S. officials appeared at times dangerously unconcerned about Maliki’s consolidation of power that once again marginalized Sunni Iraq, which the war had already proven would give jihadis the opportunity they needed
  • Biden reflected America’s schizophrenic attitude toward ending post-9/11 wars, in which leaving a residual force amidst an unsettled conflict does not count as continuing a war.
  • “I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA,” the Times quoted him. Instead, the following year, the Iraqi parliament did no such thing
  • Biden is the last of the pre-Obama generation of Democratic foreign policy grandees who enabled the Iraq war. John Kerry and Hillary Clinton both lost their presidential bids, saddled in both cases with the legacy of the war they supported
  • A President Biden is likely to find himself a man out of time. Writing in The Guardian, David Adler and Ben Judah recently described Biden as a “restorationist” in foreign policy, aiming at setting the American geopolitical clock back to what it was before Trump took office. Yet now an emergent China, a resurgent Russia, and the ascent of nationalism and oligarchy across Europe, India, and South America have fragmented the America-centric internationalist order that Biden represents. While Trump has accelerated these dynamics, he is far less responsible for them than is the martial post-9/11 course of U.S. foreign policy that wrecked itself, most prominently in Iraq.
Ed Webb

The Psychology of the Intractable Israel-Palestine Conflict - New Lines Magazine - 0 views

  • reinforcing the entrenched identities, hardened by trauma, which have contributed to the intractability of this conflict. Many researchers have been pointing out for years that societies are becoming more polarized, meaning that more people are reaching a point of complete identification with a single group, leading to demonization and, in extreme cases, dehumanization of those outside their group, and a corresponding inability to communicate with those outside of their community. Polarization essentially describes a situation where a middle ground, vital for dialogue, has been lost.
  • Emotions drive behavior, and extreme psychological states drive extreme behavior, including violence. The question becomes what to do with these insights, when violent responses to violence produce ever stronger emotional states stemming from fear and rage. The long history of this particular conflict ensures that there are now generations of traumatic memories to reinforce large-group identities based on shared feelings of vulnerability and victimization, creating an intractable cycle.
  • most of us gain our sense of belonging through a variety of groups we interact with on a daily or weekly basis — our families, friends, colleagues, sports teams or groups based around other hobbies and interests. But in addition to these groups that we experience in person through shared activities, we all have larger-group affiliations, which can vary in strength from one person to another. These can include our country of birth or residence, a political party, a wider religious group that includes people from other countries and cultures, an ethnicity, a language group or an identity based on shared passions, such as being a music or sports fan. There are many parts to a typical identity, but sometimes, if rarely, one comes to dominate above all others, leading to specific psychological states and associated behaviors, including violence.
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  • Whitehouse and Swann describe the fully fused state, when commitment to one group dominates over all others, as a “form of alignment with groups that entails a visceral feeling of oneness with the group. This feeling is associated with unusually porous, highly permeable borders between the personal and social self.” In other words, an insult, a compliment or an injury to the group or another member of the group is perceived as an insult, a compliment or an injury to the self, as most people can recognize when someone from outside the family insults a family member.
  • In Jordan, no one I interviewed ever put their nationality in the top three, but rather chose family, tribe or region, religion or “Arabness.” (There was one exception, and it turned out he was working for the security services.)
  • they have come to feel that no one is coming to their rescue, a feeling reinforced by the example of Syria: Not only did the world not act to prevent Syrian deaths, but the world — including Arabs — also ignored President Bashar al-Assad’s brutality against his own Palestinian population.
  • once an individual is fully fused to an identity, all positive and negative experiences serve to reinforce that single identity, with ever more rigid policing of the boundaries of “us” and “them,” and ever-shrinking spaces for communicating with the “other.”
  • “The Holocaust for Israelis and the Nakba for Palestinians condense into two words a multitude of horrific experiences suffered by millions of people,” he wrote, describing a trauma not only for those who experienced them directly but also for their descendants; both are just within living memory. “When members of the victimized group are unable to bear the humiliation, reverse their helplessness, or mourn their losses, they pass on to their children powerful, emotionally charged images of their injured selves.”
  • Israel’s occupation causes daily, ongoing fear and humiliation among the Palestinian population, as well as challenges to everyday existence that dampen the energy to act. But, as Fromm writes, “Young people may succumb to apathy temporarily but a return to rage is always a possibility, in part as a vitalizing alternative to helplessness or despair.” That is, the violence we have witnessed from Palestinians is a natural response to Israel’s occupations when framed in terms of psychology; as an Israeli colleague of mine put it back in 2019, “There is no chance for peace without first ending the occupation.”
  • Extreme states of belonging to a single group have enabled the most extreme violence seen throughout history and around the world, from suicide bombings to kamikaze attacks during times of war.
  • For these people, Hamas’ actions symbolized a reassertion of dignity and pride in an Arab identity against an unjust oppressor. This single massacre, which included whole families shot in their beds, has prompted more demonstrations of support for the Palestinian cause than any other occasion in the past few decades. In Jordan, pro-Palestinian protesters only dispersed from the Israeli border after the Jordanian army used tear gas.
  • “apocalyptic mindset,”
  • classic asymmetric warfare, laid out in an al Qaeda manual taken up by the Islamic State, “The Management of Savagery,” which advocates baiting the enemy’s military into wars they cannot afford and depleting them — as was achieved by 9/11 at a financial cost of mere hundreds of thousands of dollars, compared to the trillions spent on the subsequent 20-year “war on terror.”
  • In times of low stress, even a hardened identity does not fear the other and can exhibit curiosity, or at least a lack of animosity, toward an out-group. But this retreat isn’t available to groups whose security is at risk. Fully fused large-group identities, with psychological boundaries hardened by both inherited trauma and daily fear, have another damaging implication for the prospects of peace. This is the perceived threat of reaching across the divide, including gestures of reconciliation. It is felt as betrayal to build bridges with the other and is experienced as a psychological wound.
  • We are now seeing mass hardening of psychological barriers in the region and globally, with many unable to see faults on their side or, conversely, laudable elements on the other. And it is not just rhetoric
  • there is a shrinking space for empathy and dialogue
  • Conflict resolution in such a situation seems meaningless: Neither side wants nor can even conceive of a relationship with the other, so what is the possible basis for negotiation, let alone peaceful coexistence?
  • all around the world people have told me a version of “No one has suffered as we have suffered.” Victimhood limits our ability to see others also as victims, to everyone’s detriment, for violence is then justifiable, and this is what fuels ongoing wars. It is unclear who can address the intergenerational wounds of the past, but without that work, nothing can improve.
Ed Webb

Imperialist feminism redux - Saadia Toor - 1 views

  • In the 19th and early 20th century, the civilising mission through which colonialism was justified was supported by western feminists who spoke in the name of a ‘global sisterhood of women’ and aimed to ‘save’ their brown sisters from the shackles of tradition and barbarity. Today, this imperialist feminism has re-emerged in a new form, but its function remains much the same – to justify war and occupation in the name of ‘women’s rights’ . Unlike before, this imperialist feminist project includes feminists from the ‘Global South’. Take, for example, the case of American feminists, Afghan women and the global war on terror (GWoT).
  • there was one claim that proved instrumental in securing the consent of the liberals (and, to some extent, of the Left) in the US – the need to rescue Afghan women from the Taliban. This justification for the attack on Afghanistan seemed to have been relegated to the dustbin of history in the years of occupation that followed, reviled for what it was, a shameless attempt to use Afghan women as pawns in a new Great Game.  As the United States draws down its troops in Afghanistan, however, we have begun to see this ‘imperialist feminism’ emerge once again from a variety of constituencies both within the United States and internationally
  • how easily liberal (and left-liberal) guilt can be used to authorise terrible deeds
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  • The fact that the meme of the Muslim woman who must be saved from Islam and Muslim men – through the intervention of a benevolent western state – 11 years after the very real plight of Afghan women was cynically deployed to legitimise a global war, and long after the opportunism of this imperialist feminism was decisively exposed, points to a serious and deep investment in the assumptions that animate these claims. These assumptions come out of a palpable dis-ease with Islam within the liberal mainstream and portions of the Left, a result of the long exposure to Orientalist and Islamophobic discourses.
  • secularism is posited as the necessary prerequisite for achieving equal rights for women
  • The less-than-enthusiastic support for the Arab Spring by liberals on the basis of a fear that the Muslim Brotherhood would come to power (thereby implying that the human rights/women’s rights record of the regimes they were replacing was somehow better) illustrates the liberal anxiety regarding democracy when it comes to the Arab/Muslim ‘world’ and hints at the historical relationship between women’s movements and authoritarian regimes in the postcolonial period
  • Even as the United States officially begins to wind down its war in Afghanistan, the GWoT – recently rebranded as the Overseas Contingency Operation by President Obama – is spreading and intensifying across the ‘Muslim world’, and we can expect to hear further calls for the United States and its allies to save Muslim women. At the same time, we are seeing the mainstreaming and institutionalisation of a gendered anti-Muslim racism within the west, which means that we can also expect to see more of the discourse which pits the rights of Muslim men against those of Muslim women.
  • caution against seeing Muslim women as exceptional victims (of their culture/religion/men), and to point out both that there are family resemblances between the violence suffered by women across the world and that there is no singular ‘Muslim woman’s experience’
Ed Webb

Why Breaking the Silence is prime target for Israeli right - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of t... - 0 views

  • only the activists of one organization, Breaking the Silence, have the dubious honor of being labeled “traitors.” That organization, which has documented and published testimony by military veterans about human rights violations in the territories since 2004, draws more fire than all the other organizations put together.
  • There are those who explain that the reason this group of former soldiers has become the punching bag of the country stems from the fact that it is no longer limiting itself to activity within Israel’s borders. Not only does it publish reports in Hebrew, it translates them into English, gets funding from foreign organizations and individuals, and appears before foreign parliaments. To put it bluntly, many believe that dirty laundry should be washed at home. Not in the foreign media, not in the offices of the European Union in Brussels and not in testimony before an investigative panel of the UN Human Rights Committee. By the same logic, even if the average Israeli concedes that the occupation is a pollutant, he must put up with the smell. A good Israeli must shut the windows and keep the stench at home.
  • Unlike Netanyahu, Breaking the Silence is careful to publish information only after clearing it with military censors. Details that the censor bans from publication or those that are not verified do not see the light of day. The organization made it clear that the censor’s office had approved the publication of most of the testimony recorded by Ad Kan activists and aired on a Channel 2 television investigative report. It was this report that initially claimed that Breaking the Silence was gathering classified operational information unrelated to soldiers’ testimony about human rights violations.
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  • Breaking the Silence is being picked on for cynical political reasons. For Israeli Jews, there is no cow more sacred than the IDF. A clear majority, including this writer, served, are serving or will serve in the armed forces, just like their parents, children and even their grandchildren. When Defense Minister Lt. Gen.  (res.) Moshe Ya'alon declares that the members of Breaking the Silence are traitors, he means that they betrayed all Israelis. This is not an argument about occupation, ethics or Israel’s international standing. It's about our lives. Ya'alon was the commander-in-chief of the military, a respected authority on the matter.
  • The tacit conventional wisdom since the start of the so-called “knife intifada” is based on Talmudic teachings: “If a man comes to kill you, rise early and kill him first.” Or in common parlance, neutralize him first. Israeli politicians have called for people to do just this when confronted with a possible terrorist. There are even Jews who have already ascribed a broad interpretation to this order. Anyone coming to kill you, in their interpretation, may be a Jew willing to hand over territory to non-Jews. Assassin Yigal Amir, for instance, shot Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin after rabbis and politicians incited against him and his peace policy. Netanyahu himself took part in a demonstration at which a Rabin cutout dressed in a Nazi SS uniform was held aloft. Today, in his dressing down of the organization, he is dressing Breaking the Silence in the uniform of a kapo.
  • “Patriots” who beat up Palestinians for kicks on city streets and set a bilingual school on fire have already started sending threats to Breaking the Silence activists and their families, including their elderly grandparents. If, God forbid, anyone is hurt, Netanyahu, Ya'alon and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid will rush to issue “sharp condemnations” of the criminals. They will surely not forget to attack those spreading incitement, but they might forget or ignore their own past contributions.
Alana Garvin

TUC backs boycott of Israeli goods | Politics | guardian.co.uk - 0 views

  • The TUC today backed a targeted boycott of Israeli goods originating from illegal settlements and an end to arms sales to Israel to ramp up the pressure "for an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories".
    • Alana Garvin
       
      Trade Union Congress (British organization representing many British trade unions)
  • Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, told union delegates that they "have a part to play" in seeing an end to the occupation, a dismantling of the separation wall and the removal of the illegal settlements.
  • "This is not a call for a general boycott of Israeli goods and services, which would hit ordinary Palestinian and Israeli workers but targeted, consumer-led sanctions directed at businesses based in, and sustaining, the illegal settlements."
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  • "We feel we need to have discussions with Palestinian trade unions, discussions with the PLC [Palestinian Legislative Council], where we can put most pressure on the Israeli government and to target a consumer boycott better."
  • "We will now try to identify goods and products where the most pressure can be put on the Israeli government to persuade them to change their policies."Hugh Lanning, chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said it was a "landmark" decision which followed a wave of motions passed at union conferences this year because of "outrage" at Israel's "brutal war" on Gaza.
Ed Webb

Middle East peace effort's missing key: female negotiators. - Yahoo! News - 0 views

  • These women work toward a sustainable peace as committee members, as demonstrators, and as mothers raising and educating their children despite occupation. But their representation in formal negotiations is inadequate. Because Israeli and Palestinian women are disproportionately affected by occupation and the threat of violence, their input into the national security debate – and international negotiations for peace – is essential.
  • The suffering that women face under increased militarization should translate into a large presence in the security sector. But the Haifa Feminist Center reports that men are overwhelmingly the central decisionmakers in matters of formal conflict resolution, while female politicians largely address socioeconomic issues within the "private" sphere.
  • For years, women's organizations in Israel and Palestine have worked to increase female participation in the peace process. Groups like the Haifa Feminist Center have organized conferences and lobbied legislators, while the Palestinian section of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom has met with Palestinian leadership about increasing the number of high-level posts held by women. Such grass-roots efforts should be supported and recognized by US diplomats and the Obama administration, both politically and financially. One simple step for major players to take could be to facilitate increased information-sharing between these organizations, the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority, and members of the Quartet. That alone could bring a spotlight to this issue.
Bertha Flores

Freeman's Speech - 0 views

  • disinterested
    • Ed Webb
       
      He means 'uninterested,' I think
  • It will be held under the auspices of an American president who was publicly humiliated by Israel’s prime minister on the issue that is at the center of the Israel-Palestine dispute — Israel’s continuing seizure and colonization of Arab land
  • Peace is a pattern of stability acceptable to those with the capacity to disturb it by violence. It is almost impossible to impose. It cannot become a reality, still less be sustained, if those who must accept it are excluded from it. This reality directs our attention to who is not at this gathering in Washington and what must be done to remedy the problems these absences create.
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  • Must Arabs really embrace Zionism before Israel can cease expansion and accept peace?
  • a longstanding American habit of treating Arab concerns about Israel as a form of anti-Semitism and tuning them out. Instead of hearing out and addressing Arab views, U.S. peace processors have repeatedly focused on soliciting Arab acts of kindness toward Israel. They argue that gestures of acceptance can help Israelis overcome their Holocaust-inspired political neuroses and take risks for peace.
  • Arabic has two quite different words that are both translated as “negotiation,” making a distinction that doesn’t exist in either English or Hebrew. One word, “musaawama,” refers to the no-holds-barred bargaining process that takes place in bazaars between strangers who may never see each other again and who therefore feel no obligation not to scam each other. Another, “mufaawadhat,” describes the dignified formal discussions about matters of honor and high principle that take place on a basis of mutual respect and equality between statesmen who seek a continuing relationship.Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s travel to Jerusalem was a grand act of statesmanship to initiate a process of mufaawadhat — relationship-building between leaders and their polities. So was the Arab peace initiative of 2002. It called for a response in kind.
  • I cite this not to suggest that non-Arabs should adopt Arabic canons of thought, but to make a point about diplomatic effectiveness. To move a negotiating partner in a desired direction, one must understand how that partner understands things and help him to see a way forward that will bring him to an end he has been persuaded to want. One of the reasons we can't seem to move things as we desire in the Middle East is that we don’t make much effort to understand how others reason and how they rank their interests. In the case of the Israel-Palestine conundrum, we Americans are long on empathy and expertise about Israel and very, very short on these for the various Arab parties. The essential militarism of U.S. policies in the Middle East adds to our difficulties. We have become skilled at killing Arabs. We have forgotten how to listen to them or persuade them.
  • In foreign affairs, interests are the measure of all things. My assumption is that Americans and Norwegians, indeed Europeans in general, share common interests that require peace in the Holy Land. To my mind, these interests include — but are, of course, not limited to — gaining security and acceptance for a democratic state of Israel; eliminating the gross injustices and daily humiliations that foster Arab terrorism against Israel and its foreign allies and supporters, as well as friendly Arab regimes; and reversing the global spread of religious strife and prejudice, including, very likely, a revival of anti-Semitism in the West if current trends are not arrested. None of these aspirations can be fulfilled without an end to the Israeli occupation and freedom for Palestinians.
  • The Ottoman Turks were careful to ensure freedom of access for worship to adherents of the three Abrahamic faiths when they administered the city. It is an interest that Jews, Christians, and Muslims share.
  • pathologies of political life in the United States that paralyze the American diplomatic imagination. Tomorrow’s meeting may well demonstrate that, the election of Barack Obama notwithstanding, the United States is still unfit to manage the achievement of peace between Israel and the Arabs.
  • the American monopoly on the management of the search for peace in Palestine remains unchallenged. Since the end of the Cold War, Russia — once a contender for countervailing influence in the region — has lapsed into impotence. The former colonial powers of the European Union, having earlier laid the basis for conflict in the region, have largely sat on their hands while wringing them, content to let America take the lead. China, India, and other Asian powers have prudently kept their political and military distance. In the region itself, Iran has postured and exploited the Palestinian cause without doing anything to advance it. Until recently, Turkey remained aloof.
  • the United States has been obsessed with process rather than substance. It has failed to involve parties who are essential to peace. It has acted on Israel’s behalf to preempt rather than enlist international and regional support for peace. It has defined the issues in ways that preclude rather than promote progress. Its concept of a “peace process” has therefore become the handmaiden of Israeli expansionism rather than a driver for peace. There are alternatives to tomorrow’s diplomatic peace pageant on the Potomac. And, as Norway has shown, there is a role for powers other than America in crafting peace in the Holy Land.
  • Few doubt Mr. Obama’s sincerity. Yet none of his initiatives has led to policy change anyone can detect, let alone believe in.
  • t. For the most part, Arab leaders have timorously demanded that America solve the Israel-Palestine problem for them, while obsequiously courting American protection against Israel, each other, Iran, and — in some cases — their own increasingly frustrated and angry subjects and citizens.
  • the Obama administration has engaged the same aging impresarios who staged all the previously failed “peace processes” to produce and direct this one with no agreed script. The last time these guys staged such an ill-prepared meeting, at Camp David in 2000, it cost both heads of delegation, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, their political authority. It led not to peace but to escalating violence. The parties are showing up this time to minimize President Obama’s political embarrassment in advance of midterm elections in the United States, not to address his agenda — still less to address each other’s agendas. These are indeed difficulties. But the problems with this latest — and possibly final — iteration of the perpetually ineffectual “peace process” are more fundamental.
  • The Mahmoud Abbas administration retains power by grace of the Israeli occupation authorities and the United States, which prefer it to the government empowered by the Palestinian people at the polls. Mr. Abbas’s constitutional term of office has long since expired. He presides over a parliament whose most influential members are locked up in Israeli jails. It is not clear for whom he, his faction, or his administration can now speak.
  • American policies in the Middle East, with an emphasis on the prospects for peace in the Holy Land
  • Yet, as I will argue,  the United States has been obsessed with process rather than substance. It has failed to involve parties who are essential to peace. It has acted on Israel’s behalf to preempt rather than enlist international and regional support for peace. It has defined the issues in ways that preclude rather than promote progress. Its concept of a “peace process” has therefore become the handmaiden of Israeli expansionism rather than a driver for peace. There are alternatives to tomorrow’s diplomatic peace pageant on the Potomac. And, as Norway has shown, there is a role for powers other than America in crafting peace in the Holy Land.
  • Yet, as I will argue,   the United States has been obsessed with process rather than substance. It has failed to involve parties who are essential to peace. It has acted on Israel’s behalf to preempt rather than enlist international and regional support for peace. It has defined the issues in ways that preclude rather than promote progress. Its concept of a “peace process” has therefore become the handmaiden of Israeli expansionism rather than a driver for peace. There are alternatives to tomorrow’s diplomatic peace pageant on the Potomac. And, as Norway has shown, there is a role for powers other than America in crafting peace in the Holy Land.
  • Yet, as I will argue,   the United States has been obsessed with process rather than substance. It has failed to involve parties who are essential to peace. It has acted on Israel’s behalf to preempt rather than enlist international and regional support for peace. It has defined the issues in ways that preclude rather than promote progress. Its concept of a “peace process” has therefore become the handmaiden of Israeli expansionism rather than a driver for peace. There are alternatives to tomorrow’s diplomatic peace pageant on the Potomac. And, as Norway has shown, there is a role for powers other than America in crafting peace in the Holy Land
  • The resentment of mostly Muslim Arabs at their governing elites’ failure to meet these standards generates sympathy for terrorism directed not just at Israel but at both the United States and Arab governments associated with it
  • Arab governments willing to overlook American contributions to Muslim suffering
  • suspending its efforts to make peace in the Holy Land
  • invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq
  • It has caused a growing majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to see the United States as a menace to their faith, their way of life, their homelands, and their personal security
  • But I do think it worthwhile briefly to examine some of the changes in the situation that ensure that many policies that once helped us to get by in the Middle East will no longer do this
  • “peace process,”
  • The perpetual processing of peace without the requirement to produce it has been especially appreciated by Israeli leaders
  • Palestinian leaders with legitimacy problems have also had reason to collaborate in the search for a “peace process
  • Israeli backing these leaders need to retain their status in the occupied territories. It ensures that they have media access and high-level visiting rights in Washington. Meanwhile, for American leaders, engagement in some sort of Middle East “peace process” has been essential to credibility in the Arab and Islamic worlds, as well as with the ever-generous American Jewish community.
  • “The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state.”
  • It has no interest in trading land it covets for a peace that might thwart further territorial expansion
  • Obviously, the party that won the democratically expressed mandate of the Palestinian people to represent them — Hamas — is not there
  • “peace process” is just another in a long series of public entertainments for the American electorate and also a lack of confidence in the authenticity of the Palestinian delegation
  • the Arab peace initiative of 2002. This offered normalization of relations with the Jewish state, should Israel make peace with the Palestinians.
  • But asking them even implicitly to agree that the forcible eviction of Palestinian Arabs was a morally appropriate means to this end is both a nonstarter and seriously off-putting
  • has been met with incredulity
  • Only a peace process that is protected from Israel’s ability to manipulate American politics can succeed.
  • establishing internationally recognized borders for Israel, securing freedom for the Palestinians, and ending the stimulus to terrorism in the region and beyond it that strife in the Holy Land entails
  • First, get behind the Arab peace initiative.
  • Second, help create a Palestinian partner for peace
  • Third, reaffirm and enforce international law
  • American diplomacy on behalf of the Jewish state has silenced the collective voice of the international communit
  • When one side to a dispute is routinely exempted from principles, all exempt themselves, and the law of the jungle prevails
  • Fourth, set a deadline linked to an ultimatum
  • The two-state solution
  • That is why the question of whether there is a basis for expanded diplomatic cooperation between Europeans and Arabs is such a timely one
  • Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has made inter-faith dialogue and the promotion of religious tolerance a main focus of his domestic and international policy
  • President Obama’s inability to break this pattern must be an enormous personal disappointment to him. He came into office committed to crafting a new relationship with the Arab and Muslim worlds. His first interview with the international media was with Arab satellite television. He reached out publicly and privately to Iran. He addressed the Turkish parliament with persuasive empathy. He traveled to a great center of Islamic learning in Cairo to deliver a remarkably eloquent message of conciliation to Muslims everywhere. He made it clear that he understood the centrality of injustices in the Holy Land to Muslim estrangement from the West. He promised a responsible withdrawal from Iraq and a judicious recrafting of strategy in Afghanistan.  Few doubt Mr. Obama’s sincerity. Yet none of his initiatives has led to policy change anyone can detect, let alone believe in.
Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Bush White House Wanted to Destroy the Syrian Sta... - 0 views

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Ed Webb

Palestine's impossible dream | Yousef Munayyer | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk - 0 views

  • a discourse that emphasises development before independence, is the greater cause for alarm
  • the development initiatives, in the actual political context, move Palestinians in three directions, and none of them are toward freedom from occupation
  • Dependency
  • ...2 more annotations...
  • Sedation
  • Division
Ed Webb

Countering Christian Zionism in the Age of Trump | MERIP - 0 views

  • As Christian Zionists—Hagee is the founder of the main US Christian Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and Jeffress regularly preaches the ideology on Fox news—the two men’s remarks reflect their belief that the modern state of Israel is the result of biblical prophecy. This belief centers around the idea that 4,000 years ago God promised the land to the Jews, who will rule it until Jesus’ return to Jerusalem and the rapture. Not all will benefit from this end of times scenario: While Christians will be saved and “live forever with Christ in a new heaven and earth,” those adhering to other religions who do not convert to Christianity will be sent to hell.
  • Israel’s occupation and oppression of Palestinians—including those who are Christian—is either ignored or perceived as required to achieve the end result. In this vein, Christian Zionists consider Israel’s expansion into the West Bank via illegal settlements a positive development and even support Israeli expansion into Jordan’s East Bank.
  • Jeffress, for example, once said that Judaism, Islam and Hinduism “lead people…to an eternity of separation from God in hell,” and Hagee suggested in a 1990s sermon that Hitler was part of God’s plan to get Jewish people “back to the land of Israel.” Yet when questioned about the decision to include such speakers in the ceremony’s lineup, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said, “I honestly don’t know how that came to be.”
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  • About a quarter of US adults identify as evangelical Christian, and 80 percent of them express the belief that the modern state of Israel and the “re-gathering of millions of Jewish people to Israel” are fulfilments of biblical prophecy that show the return of Jesus is drawing closer. Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, argues that Christian Zionism is now the “majority theology” among white US evangelicals.
  • the US media and political analysts often approach the Israel lobby as if it were composed solely of Jewish supporters, whose numbers are in fact far smaller than Christian Zionists—AIPAC only boasts 100,000 members, for instance, compared to CUFI’s reported five million—and who are also deeply divided on US policy on Palestine-Israel
  • Not only do other lobby groups, such as CUFI, wield as much or more influence as AIPAC (financial and otherwise), but AIPAC, as MJ Rosenberg wrote in The Nation, “is not synonymous with Jews.” Of its 100,000 members, he explained, “most are Jewish but…many are evangelical (and other) Christians.”
  • Activists argue that while Christian Zionism may be a broadly held belief, it is not deeply held. “For most people who espouse this theology, it’s not the center of their belief,” Jonathan Brenneman, a Christian Palestinian-American activist, told me. “When people are confronted with the reality of what is going on in Palestine, the theology often falls apart.”
  • While the specific tenets of today’s Christian Zionism emerged in the nineteenth century, the movement’s ideological roots go back centuries, to the era during which Christianity became part of the Roman Empire under Constantine in the third century AD, stretching to the Crusades and then European colonialism—all cases in which plunder was accomplished under the cover of Christian ideology, namely the idea of the righteousness of Christian domination over non-Christian land and people
  • evangelist John Nelson Darby, who through missionary tours across North America popularized the end of times narrative and Jews’ role in it. In 1891, fellow preacher William Blackstone petitioned US President Benjamin Harrison to consider Jewish claims to Palestine “as their ancient home”—five years before Theodor Herzl’s call for a Jewish homeland. Subsequent influential evangelists, such as Cyrus Ingerson Scofield, preached how the first telltale sign of the world coming to an end would be Jews returning to the Holy Land. Scofield’s widely read 1909 annotated Bible proclaimed these tenets.
  • Falwell and fellow Christian Zionist preachers like Pat Robertson of The 700 Club emphasized the idea that God will only support the United States if the United States supports Israel. “Robertson has described hurricanes and financial prosperity in the US as related to the US position on Israel,” said Burge, “and Falwell used to say that if America backs away from supporting Israel, God will no longer bless America.”
  • Christian Zionism’s merging of religion and politics has been the driving force behind its more recent influence on US policy. While Trump does not purport to hold evangelical beliefs, he carefully caters to his white evangelical base, gaining their support through the US embassy move and support for Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights and the West Bank, as well as through the choice of Mike Pence as vice president.
  • A 2017 poll by Lifeway Research, for example, demonstrated the generational divide. Only nine percent of older respondents considered the “rebirth” of Israel in 1948 as an injustice to Palestinians, while 62 percent disagreed and 28 percent said they weren’t sure. Among younger evangelicals, nineteen percent said that Israel’s creation was an injustice to Palestinians, 34 percent disagreed, and almost half weren’t sure.
  • “Christian Zionism is an extremist ideology, but it’s also incredibly broadly held and is part of a larger Christian package of belief,” he said. “Most people who hold it don’t realize they’re holding really hateful beliefs; it’s very much based on ignorance and insularity.” Brenneman adds that such beliefs are rarely challenged, particularly because the mainstream media plays into them by emphasizing, among other tropes, the idea that Israel is always in grave danger from the Palestinians or surrounding Arab states. The result: When Christian Zionists learn of Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians, their belief system is vulnerable to disruption.
  • “The vast majority of people in the American church want to honor God and are pursuing the goodness of the world,” Cannon told me. “They are open to their mind being changed, but their underlying concern is they think if they shift their political perspective, they won’t be faithful to theology.” Cannon says using the example of Israeli settlements is productive in this regard. “It’s straightforward to show people that they are not following the basic Christian tenet of ‘love thy neighbor’ if they are supporting those who build a settlement on Palestinian farmland that’s been in that family for decades or a century,” she said. “The current realities speak for themselves. We show them that they can honor God while advocating for Palestinian rights, too.”
  • “Christian Zionism is not just the John Hagee’s of the world, but is found in Protestant mainline churches, including those that have divested from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation,” he said. “It’s a more nuanced and diffused theology found at the level of hymns as well as in the pulpit.” This phenomenon is also part of what liberation theologian Marc H. Ellis calls the “ecumenical deal” between Christians and Jews, in which mainline Christians are silent on Israel’s abuse of Palestinians to repent for Christianity’s historic anti-Semitism.
  • Abuata says the Christian movement for Palestinian rights has grown significantly in the past decade, noting that 10 years ago he wouldn’t have been welcomed into 80 percent of the mainline Christian denominations and churches with which he now coordinates.
  • While Christian Zionism has certainly internationalized in recent years, growing in popularity in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, Abuata says the movement countering Christian Zionism has as well.
Ed Webb

On British colonialism, antisemitism, and Palestinian rights | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • Palestine was not lost in the late 1940s, as is commonly believed; it was lost in the late 1930s, as a result of Britain’s savage smashing of Palestinian resistance and support for Jewish paramilitary forces
  • Churchill held Arabs in contempt as racially inferior. His description of Palestinian Arabs as a “dog in a manger” is shocking, but not entirely surprising; racism usually goes hand in hand with colonialism.
  • In British eyes, a Palestinian state was synonymous with a mufti state; accordingly, Britain’s hostility towards Palestinians and Palestinian statehood was a constant factor in its foreign policy from 1947-49.
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  • Britain gave a green light to its client, King Abdullah of Transjordan, to send his British-led little army into Palestine upon expiry of the British mandate, to capture the West Bank - which was intended to be the heartland of the Palestinian state. The winners in the war for Palestine were King Abdullah and the Zionist movement; the losers were Palestinians. Around 750,000 Palestinians, more than half the population, became refugees, and the name Palestine was wiped off the map.
  • When Jordan formally annexed the West Bank in 1950, Britain and Pakistan were the only UN members to recognise it.
  • Against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter, the reassessment of Britain’s colonial past and the drive to decolonise school curricula, some scholars have leapt to the defence of the British Empire. Nigel Biggar, the Regius professor of theology at the University of Oxford, for example, defends the British Empire as a moral force for good. Referencing Cecil Rhodes and the campaign to remove his statue from Oriel College, Biggar conceded that Rhodes was an imperialist, “but British colonialism was not essentially racist, wasn’t essentially exploitative, and wasn’t essentially atrocious”. The British Empire’s record in Palestine, however, is rather difficult to reconcile with the benign view of the learned professor. 
  • Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) is by far the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in Britain, and its membership includes around 80 percent of Tory members of parliament. Since the May 2015 general election, CFI has sent 24 delegations with more than 180 Conservatives to visit Israel.  The last three leaders of the Conservative Party have been uncritical supporters of the State of Israel. Former Prime Minister David Cameron described himself as a “passionate friend” of Israel and insisted that nothing could break that friendship.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a slightly more nuanced take on Britain’s record as a colonial power in Palestine. In his 2014 book on Churchill, he described the Balfour Declaration as “bizarre”, “tragically incoherent” and an “exquisite piece of Foreign Office fudgerama”. This was one of the rare examples of sound judgement and historical insight on Johnson’s part. But in 2015, on a trip to Israel as mayor of London, Johnson hailed the Balfour Declaration as “a great thing”. 
  • Arthur Balfour, the foreign secretary in 1917, undertook to uphold the civil and religious rights of the native population of Palestine. A century later, the House of Commons added national rights as well, voting in October 2014 - by 274 votes to 12 - to recognise a Palestinian state. Cameron chose to ignore the non-binding vote
  • The Conservative government’s adoption in 2016 of the IHRA’s non-legally-binding working definition of antisemitism falls squarely within this tradition of partisanship on behalf of Zionism and Israel, and disdain for Palestinians.  The definition states: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
  • The definition does not mention Israel by name, but no fewer than seven out of the 11 “illustrative examples” that follow concern Israel. They include “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”; “applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”; “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”; and “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”. 
  • antisemitism was singled out for attention and punishment by a Conservative government that is renowned for its intensely relaxed attitude towards Islamophobia. 
  • Many left-wing Israelis regard Israel as a racist endeavour. B’Tselem, the highly respected Israeli human rights organisation, issued a closely argued position paper in January titled “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.”
  • Right-wing Israelis continue to hotly deny that Israel is an apartheid state and reject any comparison with apartheid South Africa. But there is no law against calling Israel an apartheid state, and progressive Israelis do so all the time. Comparisons with Nazi Germany are also not proscribed by Israeli law. Such comparisons are less common in Israeli political discourse, but they are occasionally expressed in newspaper editorials and even by politicians. 
  • To achieve consensus on the document within the IHRA, it was necessary to separate the statement from the illustrative examples that followed. Pro-Israel partisans, however, have repeatedly conveyed the false impression that the examples are an integral part of the definition.
  • What the non-legally-binding IHRA document does do, with the help of the examples, is shift the focus from real antisemitism to the perfectly respectable and growing phenomenon of anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism is sometimes described by pro-Israel stakeholders as “the new antisemitism”. It is essential, however, to distinguish clearly between the two.
  • The 11 examples make a series of unwarranted assumptions about Israel and world Jewry. They assume that all Israelis adhere to the notion of Israel as a Jewish state; that Israel is a “democratic nation”; that Israel is not a racist endeavour; and that all Jews condemn the comparison between Israeli policy and that of the Nazis.
  • the definition’s very vagueness confers a political advantage. It enables Israel’s defenders to weaponise the definition, especially against left-wing opponents, and to portray what in most cases is valid criticism of Israeli behaviour as the vilification and delegitimisation of the State of Israel.
  • Israel is not a democracy. Even within its original borders, it is a flawed democracy at best, because of discrimination at multiple levels against its Palestinian citizens. But in the whole area under its rule, including the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel is an ethnocracy - a political system in which one ethnic group dominates another. 
  • In the Orwellian world of the post-full-adoption Labour Party, many of the members who have been suspended or expelled for the crime of antisemitism were themselves Jewish. Several Jewish Labour Party members have been investigated since 2016, nearly all on the basis of allegations of antisemitism. This made a mockery of the claim of Keir Starmer, who succeeded the allegedly antisemitic Jeremy Corbyn as leader, to be making the Labour Party a safe place for Jews.  
  • In the rush to burnish its pro-Zionist credentials, the Labour Party turned against some of its most progressive Jewish members. Moshe Machover, the veteran Israeli British anti-Zionist, was expelled and then reinstated in 2017 after the Guardian published a letter of protest undersigned by 139 Labour Party members, including eminent Jewish lawyer Geoffrey Bindman, dismissing the insinuation of antisemitism as “personally offensive and politically dangerous”.
  • Anti-Zionism is opposition to the exclusive character of the state of Israel and to Israeli policies, particularly its occupation of the West Bank. Antisemitism relates to Jews anywhere in the world; anti-Zionism relates only to Israel. 
  • In a letter to the Guardian published in November 2020, a group of 122 Palestinian and Arab academics, journalists and intellectuals expressed their concerns about the IHRA definition. Palestinian voices are rarely heard in the national debate on antisemitism and Israel-Palestine.
  • Through ‘examples’ that it provides, the IHRA definition conflates Judaism with Zionism in assuming that all Jews are Zionists, and that the state of Israel in its current reality embodies the self-determination of all Jews. We profoundly disagree with this. The fight against antisemitism should not be turned into a stratagem to delegitimise the fight against the oppression of the Palestinians, the denial of their rights and the continued occupation of their land
  • Another call on universities to resist the government’s attempt to impose the IHRA definition came from an unexpected source: British academics who are also Israeli citizens. I am a member of this group, brought together by outrage at Williamson’s rude and crude intervention. It came as a surprise to discover that there are so many of us but, on the issue of his threat, we were all on the same page, regardless of our diverse academic disciplines, ages, statuses and political affiliations.
  • Our demarche took the form of a long letter sent in the last week of January to all vice chancellors of English universities and many academic senates. Since then, our letter has been signed by an impressive list of 110 supporters, all Israeli academics outside the UK, including many from Israel. We tried to reach a wider public beyond the academy by publishing our letter in the mainstream media. Our request was either rejected or ignored by no less than 12 national newspapers and other media outlets. We were rather surprised and disappointed that not a single national paper saw fit to publish our letter or to report our initiative. But the letter was eventually published by the Jewish leftist online journal, Vashti.
  • In our letter, we said: “Fighting antisemitism in all its forms is an absolute must. Yet the IHRA document is inherently flawed, and in ways that undermine this fight. In addition, it threatens free speech and academic freedom and constitutes an attack both on the Palestinian right to self-determination, and the struggle to democratise Israel.”
  • The Loach affair vividly demonstrates the damage that the IHRA document can do to free speech on campus. The document was used to smear a prominent left-wing critic of Israel and a defender of Palestinian rights, and to try to deny him a platform. The attempt at no-platforming ultimately failed, but it caused totally unwarranted pain to the artist, placed the master of his old college in an extremely awkward position, stirred up a great deal of ill-feeling on both sides of the argument, wasted a great deal of time and energy that could have been put to better use, and, worst of all, in my humble opinion, was completely unnecessary, unjustified and unproductive. All it did was sour the atmosphere around an imaginative cultural event.
  • it must be emphasised that antisemitism is not a fiction, as some people claim. It is a real problem at all levels of our society, including university campuses, and it needs to be confronted robustly wherever it rears its ugly head. Secondly, it would be quite wrong to suggest that Jewish students who protest about antisemitism are inventing or exaggerating their feeling of hurt. Jewish students genuinely feel vulnerable and have a real need for protection by university authorities against any manifestation of bigotry, harassment or discrimination. 
  • the definition is implicitly premised on Jewish exceptionalism - on the notion that Jews are a special case and must be treated as such. This gets in the way of solidarity and cooperation with other groups who are also susceptible to racial prejudice, such as Arabs and Muslims. To be effective, the fight against racism needs to take place across the board and not in isolated corners.
  • Despite its claim to the contrary, Israel does not represent all Jews globally, but only its own citizens, a fifth of whom are Palestinian.
  • British Jews are not collectively responsible for Israel’s conduct, but the IHRA definition implicates them in Israel’s affairs, and encourages them to target anyone they consider to be an enemy of the Jewish state.
  • do we need a definition of antisemitism at all? My own view is that we do not. The very term "antisemitic" is problematic because Arabs are Semites too. I prefer the term "anti-Jewish racism". What we need is a code of conduct to protect all minority groups, including Jews, against discrimination and harassment while protecting freedom of speech for all members of universities. 
  •  
    Opinion of an Israeli academic at Oxford University
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