Two articles from different parts of the world, one from a Palestinian Christian and another from a Jewish American, both well worth reading and both articulately reveal the pulse of the street, both Palestinian and Israeli.
Hoping common wisdom reaches decision makers soon,
Once Again, Double Standards
By Samia Khoury
Friday, April 21, 2006
"No contacts with the Palestinian Authority." These were the instructions of the U.S. administration and the European governments. How brutal and unfair! Once again, the double standard by which the U.S. deals with the Palestinians vis a vis Israel creates more ill feelings and bitterness and pushes away the possibility of peace in the region.
This past week, "The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," a study by Professors Stephen Walt from Harvard's Kennedy School and John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago, was widely circulated. It confirmed what we have been saying for years. In the study, the professors conclude that the flagrant, longstanding pro-Israel bias in U.S. Middle East policy benefits Israel, but works to the disadvantage of U.S. national interests. One of their most significant conclusions is that the U.S. has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel. Indeed, Paul Findley in his article "Silence of the Poodles" quotes George W. Ball (1909-1994), the distinguished diplomat, author of The Discipline of Power, and champion of human rights who had served as Undersecretary of State and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.: "When Israel's interests are being considered, members of Congress act like trained poodles. They jump dutifully through hoops held by Israel's lobby. ... The lobby's most powerful instrument of intimidation is the reckless charge of anti-Semitism."
It is no surprise, therefore, for the U.S. to take this stand. But for the Europeans not to have the moral courage to stand independently from the U.S. was the biggest disappointment. What happened to the "Liberty, equality, and fraternity" of France? What about the moral obligation of Britain, a nation that played a significant role in the root causes of our dispossession? By what moral values and sense of logic and justice can an occupying authority which has been oppressing a whole population for the last 39 years, flaunting U.N. resolutions with impunity, continue to be rewarded both financially and morally? Should the people of Palestine be oppressed further because they voted for change and reform in a democratic election after exhausting other options for achieving liberation and independence?
When Mr. Arafat was president, the U.S. forced him to relinquish his powers to the prime minister; but now that the prime minister is from Hamas, the demand is that he relinquish his powers to the president. What does the world community think we are? Pawns on a chess board to be moved by the U.S. and their European poodles as they may please? And will we be moved off the board entirely when foreigners declare a checkmate? This policy rife with double standards will not force the Palestinians to kneel and relinquish their rights. It will only lead the whole region into a disaster.
Yesterday we were at the YWCA to bid farewell to the General Secretary. One of the women arrived so angry and frustrated after crossing the check point that she told us that we should not be surprised if she ends up a suicide bomber. I could not believe my ears, but this is a sign of how bad the situation has become, and it certainly will be a new phenomenon for Christian Palestinians. If a woman from a comfortable home feels that way, what do you expect from a starving population in Gaza, Nablus and Jenin and other refugee camps? Or the plan to make the situation so hopeless that either the Palestinian Authority will be forced to kneel and acquiesce or the frustration and violence of the jobless and hungry population will be directed against the occupation itself? Israel would then have the perfect justification for boosting its oppressive measures of ethnic cleansing to "face the demographic threat" and call it security.
All this is happening under the silent watch of the international community, which continues to demand that Hamas recognize Israel and stop the violence. Why has nobody ever demanded that Israel stop the state violence and recognize the rights of the Palestinians in accordance to UN resolutions? And besides, which Israel is Hamas supposed to recognize when Israel is constantly and unilaterally moving its borders by confiscating more land and by building more walls on Palestinian territory? Why were the results of the Israeli elections accepted with a blessing despite the new prime minister's stated policy of such unilateral shifting of borders? For heaven's sake, you good people out yonder, stop being naive! If Israel were truly interested in peace, Hamas would not be an obstacle. The peace process started with the Madrid Conference in 1991 when Hamas was only four years old, and was being encouraged by Israel as an alternative to the PLO. So Israel had plenty of time prior to Hamas' rise to abide by peace agreements if Israel were serious about peace. But instead it has deferred their implementation by claiming that it had no peace partner. Please help put an end to this disastrous situation that is killing us all! Is there any hope for your governments to serve as honest brokers and to speak out for justice despite intimidation so that peace will eventually prevail for all the peoples of the region?
Samia Khoury is a regular contributor to The Witness. Her monthly column is "Justice & Liberation." Samia may be reached by email at email@example.com.
Published by The Witness (www.thewitness.org), April 21, 2006.
Israel Policy Forum
Washington DC, April 28, 2006
Issue # 271
Israel, Still Israel
Jerusalem--I don't know how many times I have been to this country. I would guess several dozen, for trips of various lengths, over the past 38 years. I have been here in good times and bad.
The worst was the period of the suicide bombings, when I learned that in Israel you never, ever, turn off your cell phone in case someone needs to check if you are still alive. Or you need to check on someone else.
The best years were immediately after the Six Day War when Israelis were still basking in the joy of victory and busily exploring the newly captured West Bank, Gaza, Sinai, Golan and, above all, East Jerusalem. Even the Palestinians seemed, if not welcoming of occupation, happy about the influx of tourists and about the sudden ease of travel between the Arab towns of Israel itself and the West Bank.
In recent times, the best years were, by far, the 1997-2000 period when, thanks to Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, there was virtually no terrorism and Israelis flocked to the West Bank to shop and play and were welcomed by Palestinians who, like Israelis, were benefiting from the strongest economic boom in Israel's history.
The mood today, strangely enough, is most similar to the1997-2000 years. The Hamas victory is a dark cloud on the horizon but Israelis seem not to have been as surprised by it as Americans. Nor do they seem especially afraid of Hamas. They hope that Hamas will not resort to the terrorism of a few years ago but are completely confident that they can handle it if Hamas is "stupid enough" to attack. A full 40% would negotiate with them right now. One Israeli told me, "as long as they maintain the cease-fire, we are not going to look for ways to fight them. We don't care about their rhetoric so long as it stays rhetoric."
A top politician, soon to be a minister in the new government, said that Israel's best hope right now is to do everything it can to strengthen President Mahmoud Abbas. "Whether we go the negotiations route, which is unlikely, or to a unilateral withdrawal, we need Abbas. We need his forces strengthened and we need to use him as a conduit for international aid." No one here favors any US actions that will block critical aid to the Palestinians. The same soon-to-be minister called pending Congressional moves that would block humanitarian aid "immoral and, worse than that, counterproductive. You will end up strengthening Hamas and weakening Abu Mazen if you go that route. We do not want that. Take that message to your Congress." Israelis are far more worried about Iran but they consider Iran not an Israeli problem but a global one. They hope the United States counters Iran, one way or another, but also know that their government will not sit by helplessly if President Ahmadinejad’s genocidal threats seem on the verge of implementation.
The April 17th terror bombing in Tel Aviv shook people up. But it did not convince them that a third intifada is about to resume. In fact, Israelis act as if the relatively peaceful status quo will continue despite the feeling that Hamas is a bunch of maniacs. It's a paradox. If Hamas is that fanatical, why wouldn't it launch terror attacks? Israelis seem to believe that they will not, that those in power are "fanatical but not suicidal."
One can only walk around Jerusalem, full of tourists and happy locals, and pray they are right.
Of course, it is far less cheerful on the Palestinian side. The security barrier sprouts up almost everywhere in the Jerusalem area, dividing people from their jobs, homes, schools, and hospitals. Bulldozers have cleared land for settlements in the E-1 sector (linking Ma'ale Adumim to Jerusalem) that will, if completed, permanently divide the northern West Bank from the southern West Bank and essentially make a viable Palestinian state an impossibility.
While regular non-settler Israelis have returned to believing in their own futures, I saw a new Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem in which the balconies of the lovely homes directly overlook the abysmal poverty of the Shufuat refugee camp. I saw little settler enclaves that have popped up in the until-now totally Palestinian Silwan area. You see the settlers striding the streets, guns at the ready, and the Palestinians looking away, wondering if they will lose even Silwan where, until now, no Jew wanted to live. Armed settlers march around the Palestinian areas like arrogant Redcoats in Boston.
The settlers, and the political right in general, are in a very bad mood. Ariel Sharon's Gaza withdrawal terrified them. Not only did he get out, despite all the protests from the right, he got out easily. No one died in the process. And now Prime Minister Olmert promises more withdrawals. The vitriol directed at him, as at his predecessor, from the radical fringe is awesome to behold. Most Israelis are desperate to get beyond the war and the hate. But a significant fringe thrives on it -- hatred of the Palestinians and, even more, hatred of Jews who favor compromise. These are dangerous people, as frightened fanatics always are, especially when they know that they are on the losing side.
Innocents on both sides pay the price.
In Jerusalem the other day, I watched a 19-year old Israeli soldier standing, all by himself, "detaining" a dozen Palestinians who he caught trying to slip through one of the spots where the separation barrier is still incomplete. I asked him if they were terrorists. He said, "no, they are just guys trying to get to their jobs." I asked him how long he will keep them standing there. He said that he would wait for his orders. "As soon as I let them go, they will just go down the road to another open segment and get in that way."
I asked him, "if that is the case, what is the point of the whole exercise? Is it just to humiliate the men?" He said, "It is not for me to know the point. I have orders."
I felt for the soldier. Nineteen years old and being placed in a situation like that. And I felt for the men. I watched as the young soldier made them stand up, sit down, stand up. If there is a method to this madness, I didn't see it. Neither did the soldier.
I saw other soldiers later in the day at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl. This is the time of year when Israelis commemorate the Shoah and memorialize the soldiers killed in all of Israel's wars. I watched new recruits in their crisp uniforms, rifles at their sides, listening to lectures about Zionism, about Israel's heroes, about the wars, about Rabin's martyrdom. They were sitting in groups of 20 or 30. Mostly 18 years old, as many women as men, and, in every grouping, a sprinkling of Ethiopians. The Israeli army now looks like the American army, thoroughly integrated. The jarring thing is that these lectures and spiritual uplift exercises were taking place in a military cemetery. Wherever you looked, there were beautiful young kids in uniform. And all around them were once-equally beautiful young kids, under the ground. I could not help but wonder if any of these lovely teenagers will end up here and my eyes watered. But, I have to say, I do not feel that more war is coming. Those Palestinians I saw are tired of being occupied. And those soldiers, and virtually all Israelis I talk to here, are tired of the occupation. When majorities on both sides want peace -- and every single poll shows that they do -- can fanatic fringes stand in the way forever? Herzl said, "if you will it, it is no fantasy." He was talking about re-creating a Jewish state after 1900 years. The same adage applies to ending this damn conflict.
The views expressed in IPF Friday are those of MJ Rosenberg and not necessarily of Israel Policy Forum. If you have colleagues or friends who would appreciate receiving this weekly letter, or you would like to unsubscribe, send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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