Epiphanyblog

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Posts Tagged ‘Israel

Time to observe Palestinian Propety Rights.

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Because of the Israeli lobby and AIPAC, most Americans – and certainly most of Congress – believe nearly anything Israel says, even to the point of overlooking what Israel does. Case in point is the flap over VP Biden’s trip to Israel and Israeli housing announcement in West Jerusalem.

The Americans say they believe that the kind of rude surprise that occurred when Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was visiting here earlier this month — an Israeli announcement of 1,600 units of Jewish housing in a part of Jerusalem conquered by Israel in 1967 and claimed by the Palestinians — is not likely to be repeated in the coming months. That was one of Mrs. Clinton’s central demands of Mr. Netanyahu: no more acts that disturb the atmosphere as indirect talks with the Palestinians get under way.

The 1,600 units in East Jerusalem constituted the latest of several steps that the Americans considered problematic.

This morning on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria’s GPS, the major discussion was the Israeli – Palestinian negotiations, and the break down caused by the housing announcement. That conversation reminded me once again that no one in the media, or anywhere else for that matter, has mentioned that building the housing in Palestinian West Jerusalem occupies yet more of the rapidly shrinking Palestinian territory or that it appears Israel’s continued settlement plans in the West Bank are preventing a two-state solution.

Israel's continued encroachment into Palestinian Territory, from 1946 - 2000

There are only two possible outcomes to the current scenario of expanded settlements in Palestinian territories within the next 50 years. One is that Israel will cease to be Jewish because the Muslim and Christian Palestinian population is growing much faster than the Jewish population. Jewish Israelis will become a minority. When the majority of the population ceases to be Jewish, can the current Jewish political parties continue to exist as they do now? Not likely. Unless Israel ceases to be a democracy by denying non-Jewish residents the right to vote, then Palestinians will dominate Israeli politics.

The second outcome is that Israel, including all of the West Bank and Gaza, becomes more like apartheid South Africa with a ruling overclass of Jews and a permanent underclass of Palestinians, where rights are denied and the rule of law is unequally distributed between Jews and Palestinians. If this event occurs, peace will not even be in the cards for Israel.

The fact that hardline, right Israeli’s don’t – or won’t – see these outcomes is stunning in both their blindness and lack of logic. Of course, these hardliners see another outcome altogether. In that one, all Palestinians are shoved out of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza – or killed, whichever comes first.

In the U.S., there’s a heated argument going on about Immigration, with many saying immigrants are taking over large tracts of the southwest and elsewhere and that immigration should be halted. Imagine, then, how Palestinian’s must feel. Where is the sense of equity and balance and justice when Americans say no to migration here but okay in Israel? The U.S. has a long history of protecting property rights, even to the point of allowing long-time squatters the legal right of eminent domain. Yet, the U.S. aids and all too often abets Israel’s denying those same property rights to Palestinians, only because that population just happens to have differing religions.

I remain a firm believer that Israel has a right to exist and exist in peace, but I am not one to close my eyes and ears to Israel’s faults. Blatantly stealing and occupying another people’s property, namely the Palestinians’, is dead wrong. No two ways about it.

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Written by Valerie Curl

March 21, 2010 at 11:33 AM

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.

Can George Mitchell bring peace to the Middle East?

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Robert Fiske, outspoken commentator and critic of foreign policy decisions favoring Israel for the British paper, The Independent, takes on President Obama, Sec. of State Clinton, and European Leaders for their unqualified support of Israel, even in shadow of Gaza’s overwhelming destruction and death toll.

Hanan Ashrawi got it right. The changes in the Middle East – justice for the Palestinians, security for the Palestinians as well as for the Israelis, an end to the illegal building of settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, an end to all violence, not just the Arab variety – had to be “immediate” she said, at once. But if the gentle George Mitchell’s appointment was meant to answer this demand, the inaugural speech, a real “B-minus” in the Middle East, did not.

However, the Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s English language newspaper, has a different view.

President Obama has been left to pick up the pieces after Israel’s murderous blitzkrieg, deliberately timed at the tail end of the Bush administration when there was no effective power in Washington. If Gaza had not happened, there would have been no phone calls to the Middle East, certainly none so soon, and certainly not to the Palestinian president first of all.

In that sense, Israel has unleashed an opportunity, one that President Obama has been quick to seize. It is reported that he is considering sending former Sen. George Mitchell to the Middle East. Mitchell will be remembered as the man who helped broker the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland. Such an appointment is a welcome move, coming after his equally welcome inaugural address appeal to the Muslim world for a new way forward based on mutual respect. However, the basis for a Middle East settlement already exists — the 2002 land-for-peace plan devised by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and endorsed by the Arab League.

If Mitchell can draw Israelis and Palestinians to accept the plan, he will be again a hero. It can work. There are those who doubt whether there are any similarities between Northern Ireland and Palestine, but there is one. The ordinary people of Northern Ireland were split between different political camps but they accepted that neither side could be the absolute victor and that there had to be a compromise. The Palestinians and the Israelis are in the same situation.

Whoever is appointed as President Obama’s envoy, efforts must not be allowed to stretch out interminably. There is an urgency to the situation. If there is no advance on the political front, if there is no end to their misery, if Palestinians see continuing stalemate then they will turn to forces even more radical than Hamas. The resentment and the suicide bombers will not be contained within Gaza.

Either the Middle East descends into unimaginable violence with global consequences or there is peace. That is the future. At Gaza, the crossroads has been reached. There is no other way. Prevarication is no longer an option.

The opportunity for peace must be seized. Thirteen hundred Gazans, probably more, must not have died in vain. The new US administration evidently understands the magnitude of what is at stake. In picking up the phone, Obama has picked up the challenge. That is highly encouraging.

George Mitchell, newly named Middle East envoy, has an extremely difficult road ahead of him; however, he’s no newcomer to the problems plaguing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Late in the Clinton Administration, he served as Clinton’s Middle East envoy and helped draft the Dayton Accords. As Diana Buttu, former legal advisor for the PLO’s negotiation team in 2000, told Newsweek:

I think the appointment of Mitchell is an especially interesting one, because he was the last person President Clinton put on the issue before he left office. That seems to say that Obama is picking up where that process left off eight years ago. I took Mitchell around when he came here for his fact-finding mission, and he was stunned by the amount of settlement activity and human-rights abuses that he saw. Everyone was satisfied with the report, but the Bush administration kind of swept it under the rug. Now, with Obama, the question becomes what he’s going to do with this process he’s picking up.

Pressed on the issue of what President Obama could do in the short term, Ms. Buttu stated:

There’s one absolute no-cost fix for Obama: pressuring Israel to open up the border crossings. It costs nothing and would mean everything. Anything needed in terms of building supplies comes from Israel, so that is necessary for any reconstruction of everything destroyed in the last month. It will do a lot to alleviate the humanitarian disaster in Gaza. In the medium-term, push Israel to stop settlement construction. Every president has spoken about that need, but nobody put any teeth behind those words. So that would indicate a change.

It’s too early to know yet what the Arab and Muslim street thinks about the appointment of George Mitchell…or what his appointment will mean to the lives of Palestinians. But if Muslims worldwide see that U.S. policies are focused on bringing an end to the ethnic and religious violence, ghettos, and occupation haunting the Holy Land, then maybe they will begin again to believe in the U.S.

Let’s hope Mitchell remembers being stuck in a four-hour traffic hold up in Gaza those many years ago so that a single Israeli car could pass unobstructed.

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.

Two friends – one Israeli, the other Palestinian – blog together on the situation in Gaza

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An article in Newsweek led me to the blog.

The two bloggers met in Jerusalem 2006 at a grassroots gathering of Palestinians and Israelis sponsored by the Center for Emerging Futures. Over the course of the event, the two men became friends and decided to blog together, in the hope of showing the world that people on both sides of the Israeli – Palestinian can respect each other and work together for peace.

Their blog, gaza-sderot.blogspot.com , recounts their lives on each side of the Israeli – Gaza border.

Perhaps it’s the best reporting from the area, because it shows the real lives of the people directly affected by the horrors of war and the failures of their leaders.

Written by Valerie Curl

January 18, 2009 at 10:27 PM

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

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