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Posts Tagged ‘foreign affairs

I couldn’t pass this up: Iranian elections and freedom

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Roxana Saberi, the Iranian-American journalist tried and convicted of spying in Iran this year, wrote an article for the Washington Post today on the nation’s election.

“Roxana, when you go back to America,” my cellmate entreated me last month, “please tell others that our country is not only about the nuclear issue. It is also about people like us.”

My cellmate was one of the many “prisoners of conscience” I left behind when I was released from Tehran’s Evin Prison on May 11. Many were women, student and labor activists, researchers, and academics who have been detained solely because they peacefully pursued freedom of expression, freedom of association or religious beliefs. Several of them face vague charges such as “acting against national security,” like I did.

Tehran has legitimate security concerns. But hard-liners often exaggerate and exploit “soft threats” to tighten their grip on society and to silence critics. This “security-oriented” view has become especially prevalent under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

His victory in 2005 empowered hard-liners who reversed many political and cultural openings made under his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami. The past four years have brought tighter restrictions on books, film and the press; stricter monitoring of the Islamic dress code; and mounting risks of ethnic, political and social activism. Meanwhile, hard-liners have often ignored laws or interpreted them in ways to restrict basic freedoms while monopolizing power.

During this crackdown, dual nationals and Iranians with links to foreigners have been particularly targeted. In 2007, Iranian American scholars Kian Tajbakhsh and Haleh Esfandiari were accused of acting against national security. The next year, Esha Momeni, a graduate student from California, was arrested. She has been released on bail but is still prohibited from leaving Iran.

Saberi goes on to write:

It is not uncommon for “prisoners of conscience” to be detained without due process. Some are freed on exorbitant bail. As in my case, many have limited or no access to attorneys of their choice and cannot study the “evidence” against them. When hearings occur, they usually take place behind closed doors. On top of severe psychological and mental pressures, some are physically tortured, and a few have died in custody.

Iran’s people and civil society have paid the price of this “security approach.” This use of force has failed to address the root causes of social, economic and political issues while individual freedoms and human rights are being violated. Many Iranians have become suspicious of authority and, often, of one another.

Maybe it is this example – and fear – of loss of freedom that we here in the U.S. must understand. If we allow fear to overwhelm our thinking to the point of giving up our Constitutional rights, will some in our own government behave as the security forces in Iran, all in the name of “security approach.”

Saberi ends her article with this:

Tehran’s ties with Washington will also influence the future. Under the Bush administration, the State Department set up a “Democracy Fund” that many Iranian authorities claimed was a “regime change” policy. Silva Harotonian, the Alaei brothers and many other activists are victims of this reaction.

The Obama administration has been wise to avoid talk of regime change as it makes cautious efforts to improve relations. If these ties significantly improve, Iran’s hard-liners will lose their main pretext for their tight grip on power and society. If they want to continue their clampdown, they will have to find another excuse for their unjust treatment of Iranians like those I left behind in Evin Prison.

Freedom, as Iran exemplifies, is something so elusive that even one’s own government can take it away in the name of security, especially when combined with a good dose of fear.

Heaven willing, those days are over in the U.S.


Does KSA King Abdullah II read Tom Friedman?

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If he does, then he will see the Friedman’s latest column in the Times in which Friedman recommends a revised Saudi 5-State peace plan for Israel-Palestine.

The virtues of this five-state solution — Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia — are numerous: Egypt and Jordan, the Arab states that have peace treaties with Israel, would act as transition guarantors that any Israeli withdrawal would not leave a security vacuum in the West Bank, Gaza or Arab Jerusalem that could threaten Israel. Israel would have time for a phased withdrawal of its settlements, and Palestinians would have the chance to do nation-building in an orderly manner. This would be an Arab solution that would put a stop to Iran’s attempts to Persianize the Palestinian issue.

President Obama, too much has been broken to go straight back to the two-state solution. It would be like trying to build a house with bricks but no cement. There’s no trust and no framework to build it. Israelis and Palestinians need the kind of cement that only Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan can provide. It would give Israelis security and Palestinians a clear pathway to an independent state.

Variations on this plan are being proposed by many knowledgeable foreign affairs people. This proposal or one similar to it is probably the only chance to settle the continuing conflict in this region. But will Israel go along with it? That’s a big a problem as bringing Hamas in line.

Israel continues to prevent journalists into Gaza

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As the U.S. news continues to focus solely on the inauguration of President Obama, Israel denies access of foreign journalists to Gaza.

Security officials at the border told AlArabiya.net that Egypt initially allowed journalists along with medical teams and convoy volunteers to cross into Gaza and that since Monday 160 foreign non-Arab journalists were lucky enough to cross.

However, Israel complained to Egypt about the presence of foreign journalists in Gaza, noting the 2005 border agreement which gives the Jewish state a say into who crosses into the Gaza strip from Egypt’s side.

In addition, Israel has hired an army of bloggers to counteract Israel’s negative image circling the globe on blog sites.

If Israel had it right during the last three weeks in Gaza, then why are they so afraid of what people might read or see from bloggers and journalists? Perhaps the Israeli government already know how wrong it was.

Even foreign policy experts fail to get it right

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Mr. Haass’s arguments in the latest issue of Newsweek fail to note that most of the West Bank already is occupied by Israeli settlements, and more and more Palestinians each day are being killed or illegally pushed off their historic lands to accommodate the increased numbers of Israeli settlers.

According to the latest UN map, Israeli settlers have taken over nearly all of the West Bank. Already over 1 million Israelis live in the West Bank. The result of this illegal occupation is that only small, separate enclaves of Palestinians continue to exist. Those Palestinians who continue to live in the West Bank are unable to travel freely between towns, forbidden to use Israeli built roads and prevented by IDF controlled checkpoints from passing peacefully through Israeli settlements to towns where Palestinians can buy food and necessary supplies or obtain medical assistance or send their children to school.

So, how can a real two-state solution exist when Israel refuses to stop the building and remove its people? The IDF and Israeli police refuse to fight Israeli citizens to stop the illegal settlements or remove its citizens or prevent Israelis from terrorizing and killing Palestinians. Israeli law prevents the IDF from restraining Israeli citizens, regardless of the actions of the Israelis. Only Israeli police can, and, in most cases, it appears that they refuse to act.

Moreover, according to many sources, many – if not most – Gazans are refugees from the West Bank. People who lost their homes, families, and lands to Israeli incursion and illegal occupation.

Ever since Israel pulled down Israeli settlements and left Gaza, it has been blockaded by Israel, preventing most aid from coming in; preventing merchants and farmers from participating in regional, cross-border business; preventing the Gazans from accessing their bank accounts; and a whole host of other interdictions that kept life in Gaza at bare subsistence levels. The average worker in Gaza earns approximately $1/day, according to UN agency reports.

While I fully support Israel’s right to exist within its own UN sanctioned and authorized territory and it’s right to protect itself, what Israel has practiced and continues to practice against Palestinians, whether in the West Bank, in Israel, or in Gaza, is nothing less than apartheid.

Currently, the only way a two-state solution is possible is if the international community, using strong military force, pushes the Israelis out of the West Bank and creates a land link – an additional Palestinian territory – in southern Israel between the West Bank and Gaza so that the two areas actually become one state. However, I do not believe that the international community has the will or determination to actually force these changes on Israel.

Probably the best solution at this point is for everyone – Israeli and Palestinian – to become part of one secular state in which all people, regardless of ethic or religious background, receive equal justice under the law and can vote equally and travel at will. What may be best is to create one Union wherein the rights and opportunities of all people are honored and respected under the same law and justice system. Currently, Israelis are subject to the Israeli commonwealth justice system while Palestinians are subject to military law. Thus, Palestinians have no redress under the law.

However, I do not see Israel submitting to a single state solution, especially when they look at the demographic growth between Israelis and Palestinians. The birth rate amongst Palestinians, currently, is much higher than among Israelis…and Israel fears it. The Israeli government fears Israelis will become a minority in their own land and no longer control the power to make laws or determine the State’s destiny.

Beyond religion or color or ethnicity, it is controlling power – political power – which drives the worst of the human psyche.

Until such day as Israel chooses to treat Palestinians with the same justice under the same law statues and profoundly ends the Israeli belief that all of Palestine belongs only to Israelis, no solutions will be found.

Meanwhile, the radicalism of the Palestinians exponentially will grow as their repression increases and their lives become more and more unendurable. All of history shows that radical behavior, i.e. violence, grows under repression.

As all Israeli citizens should know from their own long history of repression, no nation or people can push another people into a ghetto, take away every means of self-support, refuse them justice, and not expect those repressed people to fight back with any and every means possible. One has only to look at the Polish Ghettos at the beginning of WWII to see how a repressed people fought back.

I do not support Hamas in any way, shape or form. It’s altogether refusal to recognize Israel as a legitimite State, according to UN resolution, is a pox on its house. It’s unwillingness to unite with the PA for the benefit of all Palestinians and to work for the benefit and success of all Palestinians has led the Palestinians down a dark path from which only Israeli bullets is the result. Nevertheless, I understand completely Palestinian support for Hamas. Who else in the world dares to fight for the rights of the Palestinian people? Who else in the world stands before the world to say Palestinians deserve equal treatment and respect under the law?

However, Palestinians must reject the destructive philosophy of Hamas and the corruption of the PA to forge a new future for themselves: one that focuses international community examination of the extreme wrongs done them and cultivates international support for their cause.

The only faint, barely flickering, light in this miserable morass are the few, brave Israelis – who recognize the injustice of the Israeli government towards Palestinians, the miserable failure of their leaders, and who work for change – and the unknown numbers of Palestinians who only want to live in peace with Israel, recognize the utterly miserable failure of their leaders, and work for change.

These few voices must be must be recognized, hailed and encouraged, for it is only they who will end the circle of violence and put an end to the Killing Fields.

Thus, Richard Haass is wrong to believe that simply designating a two-state solution will resolve the conflict. His belief system, quite simply, does not take the realities on the ground into account. It is, by far, too ideology and not grounded in reality as exists now.

The only way for a two-state solution to work is for Israel to accept the territorial primacy of a Palestine state in which all citizens, whether Palestinian or Jew, were subject to and gave primacy to the Palestinian state. In that case, Israel would have to take a hands-off acceptance of Palestine as an independent government – a foreign country – in which it was legally bound by international conventions from interfering. And that Israel will never do.

Can no longer provide unqualified support of Israel

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If, like me, you can no longer give your unqualified support of Israel, especially in light of the human rights violations occurring in Gaza that are all over the blogosphere and on YouTube, then I urge you to contact your Congressional representatives.

This is especially important now because Congress last week approved a resolution in full support of Israel.

While I fully support an independent Israel as the homeland of any and all Jews who wish to live there, I also support the many Christian as well as Muslim Palestinians who are suffering under apartheid, ghetto conditions in both Gaza and the West Bank.

If the United States is to play the role of honest broker, it must concern itself with the thousands of Palestinians who have had their homes destroyed and land stolen by Israeli settlers; who have been beaten and shot just for being non-Jews; who have been unable to obtain justice in Israeli courts; who have lost their businesses and livelihoods as a result of blockades and walls that restrict their movements; who are unable to access their bank accounts, buy food, or send their children to school as a result of Israeli restrictions and interminable check points; who have seen their loved ones, including their children and babies shot point blank by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces); and who have been denied basic human rights and aid.

Again, I state that while I fully support Israel’s right to exist and firmly oppose any ideology that calls for its demise, I adamantly oppose Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Furthermore, I recognize that Hamas is a terrorist organization that, without doubt, would lose its power if Palestinians were treated with the respect and honor and human dignity to which any people deserve. But given the increased and continuing apartheid treatment from Israel towards the Palestinians, Hamas will more than likely gain increased support as the need for revenge grows stronger amongst all Palestinians, whether they live in Gaza or the West Bank. If Israel truly wants peace, it cannot – and should not – come from the wholesale destruction and discrimination of the Palestinian people.

Over the course of the last 20 or more years, I have observed the conditions of the Palestinian people grow weaker and weaker. I’ve seen Palestinians treated – and spoken out against conditions – much like that which existed during “Krystal Nacht.”

Of all the people in the world, Israelis should understand the horrors of ghettos and discrimination and hatred. Of all the people in the world, Israelis, who for thousands of years suffered and endured the absolute worst evils that human kind offered up, should recognize the injustice and inhumanity of their own treatment of Palestinians.

The very essence of Judaism is based on justice: The Law. As a people who saw the laws of Christianity, under the Holy Roman Catholic Church, turned against them time after time again – confiscating their homes and property, killing their families, driving them penniless out of their communities – it is hard for me to understand how Israel can behave towards another people they way in which they were treated for thousands of years. Israel’s treatment of Palestinians exhibits nothing less than a replay of how they historically have been treated. Worse, it represents a violation of The Law.

Regardless of recent revisionist history, Palestinians lived in the region, renamed by the Romans, called Palestine since long before the First Crusade in 1095. Well over a thousand years. If living in the same place for over a thousand years doesn’t make it the home of a people, then what does?

Does the United States have the kind of government – and are we still the kind of people – that believes justice and equity exist only for one “proper” set of individuals, such as before the Civil War? Or does this government and the people of the U.S. represent the best of human kind, wherein each person – regardless of race, creed, color, religion, ethnicity or gender – is equal and valuable. If the latter is the case, then the United States must carry its promise of equity and justice to the Middle East, equally to both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Over the last eight years, in particular, that equity and justice towards both Israelis and Palestinians has not occurred.

Now, before any more time elapses and any more lives are lost, you must contact your Congressional representatives, both Senators and Representatives, to tell them that you no longer unequivocally support Israel and that you demand all foreign aid to Israel stop until such time as Israel abides by the 1967 through 2002, as well as the new 2009, United Nations resolutions (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_UN_resolutions_concerning_Israel) which provide equity for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Written by Valerie Curl

January 11, 2009 at 3:23 AM

Another view of Palestine’s history, Part 3

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It is well past the time for the American people to treat all the people of ancient Palestine, both Israeli and Palestinian alike, with fairness and equity.

Educate Yourself!

Another view of Palestine’s history, Part 2

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