Thursday, June 29, 2006

[ePalestine] Superimposing a Solution

Dear friends, 

As the sky falls in on the Palestinians, AGAIN, below is a refreshing, out-of-the-box analysis from a good friend of mine, Mathias.  He is well connected in both Israeli and US networks, so I hope his words will be seriously considered. 

I must mention here a past article from an Israeli friend that I passed around several years ago.  It is in the same vein as this one, and deserves to be seriously considered given Israel is proving once again, it cannot deal with a 2 state solution by fully ending the occupation.

Looking beyond today's news,


Superimposing a Solution 

By Mathias Mossberg 

Posted June 27, 2006

What if Israelis and Palestinians forgot about borders and security fences? What if the long and bloody road to creating a two-state solution was abandoned in favor of a new concept of statehood? It’s called a “dual state,” and it’s more realistic than you may think. 

For more than half a century, Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting over the same tracts of earth. Numerous proposals for dividing the land have come and gone, and none has proved workable. Israel’s most recent effort to end the territorial stalemate by pulling out of Gaza and dismantling some of the West Bank settlements has drawn criticism for being too little, too late. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has outlined plans to finalize the country’s boundaries by 2010, but as long as the Palestinians demand a return to the 1967 borders, few expect the deadlock to be resolved. With Hamas unlikely to meet conditions for talks and the controversial Israeli security barrier still under construction, a peaceful and mutually agreed-upon two-state solution remains elusive. 

But in today’s world, control of geographic territory doesn’t mean as much as it once did. Statehood has become less about territory, and more about access to markets, technology, and the rule of law. What if the Israelis and Palestinians were able to separate somehow the concepts of statehood and territory and explore new ways of living together? What if both peoples were given the right—at least in principle—to settle in the whole area between the Mediterranean and Jordan? 

I’ll admit that it might not be the easiest thing to imagine. When we think about states, we naturally think about borders—real, specific, definable borders that you can plot on a map. What I have in mind is utterly different, and no doubt somewhat far-fetched. (That said, given the failure of all the “realistic” solutions of the past 50 years, forgive me for suggesting it may be time to consider other possibilities.) 

You might call it a “dual state.” Instead of the familiar formula in which two states exist side by side, Israel and Palestine would be two states superimposed on top of one another. Citizens could freely choose which system to belong to. Their citizenship would be bound not to territory, but to choice. The Israeli state would remain a homeland for Jews, and at the same time, become a place in which Palestinians were able to live freely. 

This basic administrative structure has worked elsewhere, for example, in the cantons of Switzerland. There, people of different origins and beliefs, speaking different languages and with different allegiances, live together side by side. In the Israel-Palestine dual state, smaller territorial units could be given the right to choose which state to belong to, based on a majority vote. At the same time, individuals will be able to choose citizenship for themselves, regardless of where they live. A person living in a canton that has opted to belong to Palestine could continue to be a citizen of Israel and vice versa. 

An Israeli and a Palestinian living side by side in, say, an Israeli-administered area would share many of the same rights and live by many of the same laws. They would both be free to move about within the area now occupied by Israel and the territories. They would share a common currency, participate in the same labor market, and contribute common taxes for a number of shared services. Civil disputes could be settled by independently appointed arbitrators. Parents would be free to send children to the schools of their choice, and government funding for education could be allocated on a proportional basis. Neighbors would vote for separate leaders in separate elections, but these elected representatives would harmonize legislation on a number of matters, such as traffic laws, taxation, and criminal law. 

There would be no need for security fences or barriers, no need for corridors or safe passages, and no need for checkpoints. A joint defense force could secure the borders, and a joint customs service could ensure one economic space. Both states could keep their national symbols, their governments, and their foreign representation. Local affairs would be dealt with by canton administrators on a majority basis, while individual human rights and freedoms could be guaranteed by the two states in cooperation. 

It is not difficult to imagine a Jewish-majority area consisting largely of present-day Israel, plus a number of major settlements. That area would be under Israeli jurisdiction but remain open to Palestinians who wish to live under Palestinian jurisdiction. Similarly, one can imagine a core Palestinian area, consisting of the West Bank and Gaza, and perhaps even parts of Israel where Israeli Arabs are the predominant population. The whole of this area would also be open to Jews living under Israeli law. Jerusalem could be subject to the same principle. The demographics of neighborhoods would not change overnight—for example, the divisions between East and West Jerusalem would linger for some time—but there would at least be the opportunity for people to move and live freely. 

To be sure, the road to such a “dual-state” solution would create its own challenges. But, to a large extent, it could build on present realities and proceed one step at a time. Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, accompanied by the development of credible and lasting Palestinian institutions, could ignite the process. At some point, direct talks about shared economic, civil, and defense responsibilities could begin to build the architecture for this new type of state. 

Again, is this proposal completely unrealistic? Perhaps. But present realities are far from sane and sound. There is a crucial need for new thinking if the peace process is to take root. Perhaps by re-envisioning how statehood can exist outside the traditional notions of who owns what strip of land, Israel and the occupied territories can produce the first modern embodiment of the globalized state, where the intangibles of the 21st century can solve the most intractable territorial conflicts of the 20th century. Such a state would be an innovation in world politics, international law, and constitutional design. But it would in many ways be a codification of the new world in which we already live, where our lives are no longer tied to the land in the same way they once were. For Israelis and Palestinians, forgetting about the land may be the only way they both will ever be able to live on it. 

Mathias Mossberg is vice president for programs at the EastWest Institute. He served as Sweden’s ambassador to Morocco from 1994 to 1996. 


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Monday, June 26, 2006

[ePalestine] Confront the colluders in Israel's academy

Confront the colluders in Israel's academy 

Lisa Taraki
The Times Higher Education Supplement
June 23, 2006

Although Menahem Milson's career path and mine have been on a collision course, we have never met. In 1976, I joined Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank as a junior instructor in sociology. The same year, Milson, a professor of Arabic language and literature at the Hebrew University, became "adviser on Arab affairs" in the Israeli Government. 

By 1981, when the academic community I was part of was struggling under the crushing yoke of Israeli punishments, he was appointed head of the military administration in the West Bank. One of the highlights of his tenure was the notorious "Village Leagues" scheme, a failed experiment in promoting a class of Palestinian collaborators to mediate Israeli rule. 

Milson's service fits into the classic paradigm of a colonial regime enlisting scholars to assist in ruling the "natives". He told an American Jewish publication in 1995 that to "serve an Arab population responsibly, one needs to know language and civilisation. That is why so many professors have been called to do this". Indeed, the list of Israeli academics who have served government agencies and the occupation regime is impressive. 

Today, that list includes demographers, psychologists and a host of strategic analysts. 

What is most significant for those of us who argue for a boycott of the Israeli academy is that these academics, instead of facing censure and opprobrium from their peers for their complicity in oppression, are rewarded with the highest privileges. The toleration of racism and bigotry under the guise of scholarship is also remarkable; the legitimacy and normalcy of the discourse of "the demographic threat" is a striking example. 

Opponents of an academic boycott complain that it violates academic freedom by restricting Israeli scholars' access to international academic networks. 

They also claim that since Israeli universities are generally "liberal", the action punishes those who are least in agreement with the policies of their Government. These complaints betray a striking disregard for the indivisibility of academic freedom (the academic freedom of Palestinians being of no concern) and misrepresent the reality of the Israeli academy and Israeli academics. 

When I arrived at Birzeit, the first institution of higher education established by Palestinians in the occupied territories, the university president had been deported by the Israeli Army. He was accused of "inciting" students against the occupation. He lived in exile for 19 years until he was allowed to return in 1993. As resistance to the occupation escalated in the 1980s, universities were treated to a constant diet of "closure orders" as punishment for student demonstrations. 

As soon as a military closure order was issued, we young faculty would go into top gear and fire off appeals to Western consulates, the media and human rights organisations. Because arrests invariably followed closure orders, we also fell into a routine of preparing for students' encounters with the system of military "justice". We attended trials in seedy military courtrooms where some of the prosecutors and judges were academics on reserve duty. I can still remember watching those colourless individuals as they assiduously avoided the eyes of the Palestinian academic observers on the benches. 

Later, and after we had organised makeshift lectures and laboratories scattered throughout Ramallah and Jerusalem, we would evade Army patrols bent on criminalising our efforts to rescue the semester or the entire academic year. I remember teaching a seminar on the Iranian revolution in the kitchen of an empty apartment in Ramallah, just as I recall travelling to Gaza to help a graduating student being held under house arrest finish his matriculation requirements (this trip, as the one to Jerusalem, is no longer conceivable, and we no longer have students from Gaza). 

So where have Israeli academics been during the long siege of Palestinian higher education? Aside from a handful of progressive academics, the Israeli academy has remained silent. Business as usual has been the order of the day for nearly four decades. Virtually all Israeli academics have continued to serve in the Army's reserve forces and, as such, have been perpetrators of, or witnesses to, the many crimes committed by their military. 

What is there left to do? Global centres of power have stood firmly by Israel as it has wreaked havoc with the lives and futures of Palestinians. 

Our only hope is pressure from international civil society. And that includes academics. We want our colleagues abroad to know that, with every conference they attend at an Israeli university, with every review they write for an Israeli institution, they are unwittingly helping to maintain the system of injustice. 

The academic boycott aims to make Israelis realise that there is a price to be paid for complicity, complacency and silence. Milson may have retired, but his successors continue to enjoy the fruits of academic freedom in the Israeli academy. The rest do not care. 

Lisa Taraki is associate professor of sociology at Birzeit University. 


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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

[ePalestine] Palestinians dance for peace in USA

Dear friends, 

My nephew, Yanal Hamodah, is part of the Al-Raja Debkha Dance Group.  Their schedule may be found at: .  Do try to attend one of their performances.  You will not be let down.  They are in the States till Aug 1.

Saluting cultural resistance,


Palestinians dance for peace 

A student troupe from Ramallah on tour in the U.S. is using dance to share their culture and help ease tensions in the Middle East

By Manya A. Brachear
Tribune staff reporter 

June 16, 2006 

For generations, Saba Nader's Palestinian ancestors have ushered in harvests, marriages and new babies with the traditional dance steps of "debka." 

As a student at the Evangelical Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah, in the West Bank, Nader, 17, now hopes her folkloric footwork will usher in a new era of peace in the Middle East. 

Launching their first American tour at Concordia University in River Forest earlier this week, Nader and other members of Al Raja, the school's traditional dance troupe, presented Palestinian love stories of courtship, betrayal and reconciliation through song and dance. 

"We want to show the world that Palestinians can love," said Nader, a Muslim who has attended the Lutheran school for six years. "The big message is peace and love. Although we have a bad situation back there in Palestine, we're trying to keep our faith alive." 

The invitation to Al Raja from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is part of a churchwide campaign called "Peace Not Walls," one of several attempts by mainline Protestant denominations to engage in the Middle East. The Presbyterian Church USA will decide next week, for example, whether to continue its process of divesting stocks in companies that they say enable Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories. Episcopalians also are weighing options this week at their General Convention. 

Divestment plans have drawn criticism from U.S. Jews, who welcome the churches' efforts to promote peace in the Middle East but question whether some of the chosen methods, divestment in particular, will achieve that effect. 

The Evangelical Lutheran campaign does not include a financial component but does denounce the concrete barrier built to separate Israeli and Palestinian territories. Church officials say the wall keeps patients from entering the Lutheran World Federation's Augusta Victoria Hospital, which provides basic health care to Palestinian patients. The wall also has impeded children from attending Lutheran schools in the region. 

The campaign addresses the fate of Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land by funding a housing project that will provide affordable apartments to Palestinian Christians. 

Currently, Christians make up only 2 percent of the Palestinian population and emigration continues to deplete that number, said Palestinian Bishop Munib Younan, leader of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. In fact, most of the dancers will be able to connect with relatives during their U.S. visit. 

It is important for the dancers to show Americans how they benefit from Lutheran ministries and how they can co-exist with people of other faiths, Younan said. The dance troupe includes both Muslims and Christians. It does not include Israelis, Younan said, because Israelis do not attend schools in Palestinian territory. 

"After 20 years, if there are no Palestinian Christians, we will ask [Americans]: `Why didn't you help us stay in the country?'" said Younan, who was in Chicago for the dancers' American debut. "What is a Holy Land without Christians who have been there for the last 2,000 years?" 

Christoph Schneider-Yattara, the church's associate director for companionship, education and advocacy for the Middle East, said altering the U.S. perception of Palestinians is one of the church's global missions. 

"For us, bringing people to share their stories, share their art and their dance with us is a way to give people an opportunity to engage and give Americans a chance to know Palestinians," he said. The message is not pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian, he said. It is pro-peace. 

Emily Soloff, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the American Jewish Committee, applauds the tour as a celebration of Palestinian identity and culture. She also emphasizes the importance of preserving the indigenous Christian community, but she questions how helpful it is to portray the Palestinian dancers as victims of Israeli-imposed restrictions. 

If Israel has limited their freedoms, that is because Palestinian leaders have not reined in terrorists, Soloff said. 

"Innocence gets caught up with the guilty, and that's the great tragedy in this conflict," she said. "If the goal is to find peaceful solutions, then we have to find ways to bring Palestinians and Israelis together. ... On neutral ground, they can do that in ways that are difficult to do in the Middle East." 

Delbert Leppke, a retired engineer who serves on the Chicago Lutheran synod's working group on the Middle East, said he thought it was important to encourage the dancers' talents and expose them to another part of the world. 

"The young people who are going to the Lutheran schools over there need some help to see the rest of the world a bit because they really are isolated under the occupation," he said. 

Nader is an exception. She has studied in Italy, where she lived with a Roman Catholic family, and traveled to Norway with the dance troupe last year. She does not see these opportunities as a way to escape the gunfire and curfews. 

"It's a way to show the world the many faces of Palestinians," she said. 


Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune 


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Saturday, June 17, 2006

[ePalestine] Masked perpetrators harass Palestinians / The war on children / Humanitarian Monitor

Dear friends,

The occupation spares nothing: land, trees, homes, children and donkeys.  See the first news item below, then ask:  What if it were Palestinians harassing Israeli children on their way to school?  Then it would be a leading CNN story and the Bush would rush to the White House Rose Garden to denounce the act.  The double standard is sickening and racist to the bone!!

Then the next article on the children that are losing their innocence, let alone lives, under this brutal occupation. I provide the link to the full article, which is brief, but read the excerpt I list below.  Read it and think about what this will do to an entire generation!!

Lastly, if you need the situation depicted in numbers, I list the link to the last UN Humanitarian report.

Focused on justice,


PHOTO CAPTION: IDF soldiers escorting Palestinian schoolchildren from Um Tuba past a settlement this month. (Dan Keinan) 

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
Last update - 18:42 17/06/2006

Masked perpetrators harass Palestinians, steal donkey
By Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz Correspondent

Three masked individuals crept into a Palestinian village near the southern Hebron Hills on Saturday morning, threw stones at residents and stole a donkey, residents of the village of Um Tuba said. 

Police arrived at the scene and requested that the owner of the stolen donkey file a complaint at the Kiryat Arba police station. 

Over the past few months, settlers from Moan have repeatedly harassed Um Tuba children on their way to and from school. The children are forced to pass on Maon property to get to school in the village of Al-Tawani, south of the settlement. 

Israel Defense Forces soldiers or police have had to provide escorts to protect the children from the settlers. 

About a month ago, dozens of settlers ambushed a military vehicle escorting the children. They threw stones and bottles, and one settler set his dog on the children. 

Four of the children and two soldiers were wounded in the attack. 


The war on children
John Pilger
Monday 19th June 2006

Dr Khalid Dahlan, a psychiatrist who heads a children's community health project, told me, "The statistic I personally find unbearable is that 99.4 per cent of the children we studied suffer trauma . . . 99.2 per cent had their homes bombarded; 97.5 per cent were exposed to tear gas; 96.6 per cent witnessed shooting; a third saw family members or neighbours injured or killed." 

Full article: 


OCHA May 2006 Humanitarian Monitor


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Friday, June 16, 2006

[ePalestine] Israeli Law and Order

June 14, 2006 

For Arabs Only
Israeli Law and Order

Imagine the following scenario. A Palestinian gunman boards a bus inside Israel and rides it to the city of Netanya. Close to the end of the line, he walks over to the driver, levels his automatic rifle against the man's head and pumps him with bullets. He turns and empties the rest of the magazine -- one of 14 in his backpack -- into the passenger behind the driver and two young women sitting across the gangway. 

As bystanders in the street outside look on in horror, our gunman then reloads his weapon and sprays the bus with yet more fire, injuring 20 people. He approaches a woman huddled beneath a seat, trying to hide from him, lowers the gun to her head and pulls the trigger. The magazine is empty. As he tries to load a third clip, she grabs the burning barrel of the gun while other passengers rush him. 

Seeing their chance, the onlookers storm the bus and fuelled by a mixture of passions -- fury, indignation and fear of further attack -- they beat the gunman to death. 

As the news breaks, Israeli TV prefers to continue its coverage of a local football match rather report the killings. Later, when the channels do cover the deaths, they start by showing the picture of the gunman with the caption "God bless his soul" -- in the same manner as they would normally relate to the victim of a terror attack. 

Despite the Prime Minister denouncing the gunman as a terrorist to the world, domestically the media and police concentrate instead on the "lynch mob" who killed the gunman. The police launch a secretive investigation which after 10 months leads to the arrests of seven men on charges of murdering him, and the promise of more arrests to come. A police spokesman describes the men's act against the gunman as one of "cold-blooded murder". 

Fanciful? Ridiculous? Well, exactly these events have unfolded in Israel over the past year -- except that the location was not the Jewish city of Nentanya but the Arab town of Shafa'amr in the Galilee; the gunman was not a Palestinian but an Israeli soldier using his army-issue M-16; and the victims were not Israeli Jews but Israeli Arabs. 

See how it now starts to make sense. 

The killing of four Palestian citzens of Israel by the 19-year-old soldier Eden Natan Zada on 4 August last year, shortly before the disengagement from Gaza, has been quietly forgotten by the world. After the Arab victims were buried, the only question that concerned Israelis was who killed Zada. Yesterday they appeared to get their answer: seven men from Shafa'amr were rounded up by Israeli police to stand trial for his "cold-blooded" murder. 

No one was interested in the official neglect of the families of Shafa'amr's dead, all of whom were denied the large compensation payments given to Israeli victims of Palestinian terror. A ministerial committee ruled that, because Zada was a serving soldier, his attack could not be considered a terrorist incident. Apparently only Arabs can be terrorists. To this day the state has not given the families a penny of the compensation automatically awarded to Jewish families. 

There was no investigation of why Zada, well-known for his extremist views, had been allowed to go AWOL for weeks from his unit without attempts to trace him. Or how his family's repeated warnings that he had threatened to do something "terrible" to stop the disengagement had been ignored by the authorities. No one questioned why, a few days before his attack, the police had sent Zada away after he tried to hand in his gun. 

Even more disturbingly, no one discussed why Zada, who openly belonged to a racist and outlawed movement, Kach, which demands the expulsion, if not eradication, of Arabs from the Holy Land, had been allowed to serve in the army. How had he and thousands of other Kach supporters been left in peace to promote their obscene ideas? Why were these Kach activists, mostly young Israelis, demonstrating openly against the Gaza disengagement, assaulting policemen and soldiers, when the group was supposedly underground? 

And why did the authorities not round up and question Zada's Kach friends in his West Bank settlement of Tapuah after the attack? Why was their possible involvement in its planning never considered, nor their role in inciting him to his deed? 

The point was that the Israeli authorities wanted Zada to be dismissed as a lone, crazy gunman -- like Baruch Goldstein before him, the army doctor who in 1994 opened fire in the Palestinian city of Hebron, killing 29 Muslim worshippers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and wounding 125 others. 

Although Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister then, denounced Goldstein as an "errant weed", a shrine and park was built for him nearby, in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, venerating him as a "saint" and "a righteous and holy man". Far from being isolated, his shrine regularly attracts thousands of Israeli Jews who congregate deep in Palestinian territority to honour him. 

Instead of seeking out and eradicating this growing strain of Jewish fundamentalism in the wake of the Shafa'amr terror attack, Israel claimed that finding and punishing the men who killed Zada was the priority. It was a matter of law and order, said Dan Ronen, the police force's northern commander. He told the Hebrew media: "In a country with law and order, despite the sensitivity, people can't do whatever they see fit. I hope the Arab sector will display maturity and responsibility." 

This sounds like an outrageous double standard to the citizens of Shafa'amr, and to the country's more than one million Palestinian citizens. Enforcing the law has never been a major consideration when the offenders are Jewish and the victims are Arabs, even when the killings occur inside Israel. 

Arab citizens have not forgotten the massacre of 49 men, women and children by a unit of soldiers who enforced a last-minute curfew on the Israeli village of Kfar Qassem in 1956, executing the villagers -- Arabs, of course -- at the checkpoint one by one as they innocently returned home from a day's work in the fields. 

During their trial, the Haaretz newspaper reported that the soldiers received a 50 per cent pay increase and that it was obvious the men were "not treated as criminals but as heroes". Found guilty of an "administrative error", the commander was given a one penny fine. 

Nor was anyone held to account when six unarmed Arab citizens were shot dead by the security services in the Galilean town of Sakhnin in 1976 as they protested against another wave of land confiscations that deprived rural Arab communities of their farm land. The prime minister of the day, Rabin again, refused even to launch an investigation. 

Some 25 years later, an inquiry was held into the killing by the police of 13 unarmed Arabs in the Galilee in October 2000 as they protested the deaths of Palestinians at the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem -- the trigger for the intifada. Six years on, however, not a single policeman has been charged over the deaths inside Israel. Even the commanders who illegally authorised the use of an anti-terror sniper unit against demonstrators armed only with stones have not been punished. 

Israel's Arab citizens are also more than familiar with the story of the "Bus 300 affair" of 1984, when two Palestinian gunmen from the occupied territories were captured after hijacking a bus inside Israel. Led away in handcuffs by the Shin Bet security service, the two men were later reported dead. 

No one was ever charged over the killings, even though it was widely known at the time who had killed the men and later one senior Shin Bet operative, Ehud Yatom, admitted breaking the men's skulls with a rock. In 1986, to forestall the threat of any indictments, the president of the day, Chaim Herzog, gave all the Shin Bet agents involved an amnesty from prosecution. 

If it is shown in court that Zada was in fact beaten to death after the crowd knew he had been restrained, then this history -- of the state's repeated denial of justice to the Arab victims of its violence -- must be taken into account. No one can reasonably have expected the onlookers to stay calm knowing that Zada, like other Jewish emissaries of the state before him, would receive either no punishment or a few years of jail and a pardon because he killed Arabs rather than Jews. 

Israel has shown time and again that it selectively enforces law and order, depending on the ethnicity of killer and victim. 

Commander Ronen observed at a press conference after the Shafa'amr arrests: "Since October 2000 we have come a long way in our relations with the Arab sector." If that is true, which is doubtful, the authorites have again made every effort to tear apart what little is left of that trust. 

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the author of the forthcoming "Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State" published by Pluto Press, and available in the United States from the University of Michigan Press. His website is 


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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

[ePalestine] BAHOUR: Israel Spinning Out of Control (link)

Israel Spinning Out of Control
Sam Bahour, The Electronic Intifada, 13 June 2006


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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

[ePalestine] Birmingham News: Divestment a stand for equality in Israel

Dear friends,

This excellent article comes by way of The Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), which is doing excellent work with US media outlets, trying to get a realistic picture of Palestinians and our struggle in the mainstream media.  If you wish to ensure this kind of work continues, go to to make a secure, tax-deductible donation.



Divestment a stand for equality in Israel 

Birmingham News 
June 11, 2006 
By Hilton Obenzinger 

As an American Jew who has spoken out against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza for many years, I have been regularly smeared as a “self-hating Jew” and worse. It little matters that the “radical” ideas I advocated 25 years ago are now common policy: that Israel withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967, that a viable Palestinian state be established, and that security be assured for all. On June 15th in Birmingham, the Presbyterian Church will decide if it will take a stand on the conflict, and it must prepare itself for attacks. It is indeed fitting for this discussion to take place in Birmingham, a city where decades ago church leaders risked much to take a stand for equal rights. 

In its 217th General Assembly Conference, Presbyterian Church leaders will deliberate on whether or not to call for some form of selective divestment from Israel in response to Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestinian land and on-going human rights abuses. This is an urgent question for all Americans. We are indirectly implicated in these abuses, whether we are aware of it or not. 

This year $2.5 billion in aid will be sent to Israel, the most to any country, and the bulk of it goes to the Israeli military. In addition, American businesses continue to invest in Israel, particularly in military weapons systems. If you wonder why so many people in the Middle East hate American foreign policy, just look at the “special relationship” between Israel and the U.S. government and American business. People in the Middle East know that Israel’s human rights abuses -- including land seizures, home demolitions and segregation of non- Jews in the occupied territories -- would not be possible without unconditional support from the United States. 

In 2004 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church passed a resolution to investigate selective divestment of holdings in multinational corporations doing business in Israel. Divestment – in which churches and other institutions withdraw investments from companies that profit from human rights abuses – has worked in the past, especially during the movement against South African apartheid. Such non-violent, material action can work now. 

But the Presbyterian Church is facing pressure to pass resolutions that would overturn their previous commitment to divestment. If they do support divestment, the Church will be attacked. Organizations that support Israeli policies will say that the Church is one-sided, aiding extremists, and anti-Semitic. 

Moral vision demands courage in the face of pressure, and Presbyterians will have to steel themselves. They will doubt themselves, and they will search their hearts. Many will succumb to the pressure. Wisdom and courage are not easy under those conditions. 

But if Presbyterians – and all Americans – regard the conflict with honest eyes, they will see the moral imperative clearly, and they will see the parallels to other injustices they have confronted before. Calling Israeli expansion “settlements” seems benign, for example, but if we understand them to be in reality “segregated housing projects,” they suggest dynamics we understand and have rejected. Israel’s separation wall, maze of arbitrary checkpoints, assassinations and other abuses condemned by international law are uncomfortably similar to other relics of past injustices, like South Africa under apartheid. 

Presbyterians will be told to focus their attention on other bloody conflicts, such as in Darfur. They should indeed speak out against all injustices – but not to the exclusion of the one conflict in which American taxpayers, businesses and churches have been so deeply implicated. They will be accused of condoning Palestinian outrages, and they will need the wisdom to know that condemning Israeli policies is not turning a blind eye to terrorist violence. They will also need the courage to stick to their love of justice and peace and take a stand. All Americans seeking an end to violence in the Middle East should pray that the Presbyterian Church will find that courage. 

Hilton Obenzinger is a writer who teaches advanced writing and American literature at Stanford University. 

Related article about Presbyterian's June meeting:


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Saturday, June 10, 2006

[ePalestine] The Nation: A Thirst for West Bank Water

The Nation 

A Thirst for West Bank Water 


[posted online on June 9, 2006] 

During Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's recent visit to Washington, President Bush declared Olmert's "convergence" plan "bold." For Palestinians, however, it is disastrous, because it will annex much of the West Bank's water and fertile land to Israel. 

Under Olmert's plan, Israel aims to keep the two main Palestinian West Bank aquifers: the lower Jordan River basin in the east, and the eastern mountain aquifer, trapped behind Israel's wall in the west. This will force Palestinians to depend on Israel for water, preserving the status quo, a dramatically unjust division of water resources. 

One example of this vastly unequal division of water resources is my West Bank village of Qira. Every summer the Israeli company that supplies water to our village and that provides about 53 percent of the total Palestinian domestic water supply deliberately cuts off our water, thus generating a crisis. Last year Qira, a village of 1,000 residents, had no water for more than three continuous weeks, despite the summer heat. 

Water reductions and total cuts force villagers to find alternative water sources. We collect rainwater in cisterns during the winter, but by the start of the summer, the cisterns, unfortunately, run dry. Palestinian communities are thus obliged to purchase additional water from expensive and unsanitary tankers. A high proportion of children in Qira suffer from kidney problems thought to be related to drinking stagnant water. My 4-year-old daughter was forced to have a kidney transplant. 

Across the main road from Qira, deep inside the West Bank, is the Israeli settlement of Ariel, where water is supplied to irrigate gardens, wash cars and fill swimming pools. The water in Ariel and other Israeli settlements is never cut off. Ironically, we feel lucky because we look out onto beautiful settlement houses with green yards, while Israeli settlers view the gloomy scene of our poor, parched community. 

The Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG), a nongovernmental organization, reports that there are .75 billion cubic meters of total groundwater potential in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are allocated only .25 billion cubic meters of that groundwater. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 100 liters of water per person per day as the minimum quantity for basic consumption, but many Palestinian West Bank villages have considerably less. According to the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, per capita water consumption for Palestinians in the West Bank is just seventy liters per person per day. In the nearby village of Kafr Ad-Dik, for instance, the allotment is but twenty-one liters per person per day. In contrast, Israel's per capita use reaches 350 liters per day. 

The Oslo II agreement, signed in September 1995, stipulated "the equitable utilization of joint water resources for implementation in and beyond the interim period." But in reality, this never happened. Instead, according to B'Tselem, a Joint Water Committee (JWC) was established to approve every "new water and sewage project in the West Bank. The JWC is made up of an equal number of representatives of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. All its decisions are made by consensus, and no mechanism is established to settle disputes where a consensus cannot be attained. This method of decision-making means that Israel is able to veto any request by the Palestinian representatives to drill a new well to obtain the additions stipulated in the agreement." 

Additionally, if a well approved by the JWC is situated in Palestinian Area C, which is under Israel's complete control according to Oslo, the Israeli Civil Administration must also approve the project and issue a permit to drill a well. This entails a lengthy, complicated bureaucratic process, and the vast majority of applications submitted are denied. 

The Israeli assumption is that Palestinians have only minimal water needs--less than the WHO's minimum quantities, and a fraction of Israeli needs. However, Palestinians, like Israelis, need sufficient water to drink and bathe, to develop industry and agriculture, and to build a modern country. Until that happens, my fellow villagers will remain with their eyes fixed on the water-tower gauge. 

Israel's planned annexation of West Bank aquifers will perpetuate high Israeli water- consumption levels while denying basic Palestinian needs, and will dim any hope for a viable Palestinian state and for peace. 

This article can be found on the web at: 


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[ePalestine] BAHOUR: Begging for a Response

Begging for a Response 

Israel’s ongoing air strikes on Gaza are politically motivated 

By Sam Bahour 

The Israelis are a stiff necked people.  They refuse to accept anything less than full acquiescence by anyone involved in their plans, no matter the cost -- human, political, financial, or otherwise.  Israel’s non-stop aggression against Palestinians – averaging two Palestinian deaths a day for several years now – is much more than what is popularly being coined in Israel and abroad as low-intensity warfare.  If international and humanitarian laws are to be used as a measure, the ongoing Israeli killing spree is taking on the shape of a sustained campaign of war crimes aimed to remove the Palestinians from Israel’s way. 

The recent Israeli shelling of a crowded Gaza beach full of Palestinian civilians spending a weekend by the sea is the latest tragedy in an unrelenting effort undertaken by the newly elected Israeli government to provoke Palestinians, in specific, the Hamas-led Palestinian government.  The carnage of this latest Israeli attack (the afternoon attack, not the morning one) left a toll of 10 dead and over 50 wounded.  The entire incident, like the hundreds prior, quickly become a footnote in some Israeli military report that will most likely also carry an empty apology for the large numbers of children and women among the dead.  President Bush refused to condemn the attack and the United Nations, like a large slice of the Israeli public, will most likely not even take note of it. 

In a world that has become numb to Middle Eastern carnage, except if the dead are Israeli, it does not come as a surprise that, at most, the dead are merely counted, hardly ever are they named.  The lack of world leadership has moved the international community to completely lose any moral compass whatsoever.  The basic fact that one party, the one burying its children on nearly daily basis, is an occupied people, the Palestinians.  The other party, the one launching air and sea strikes on civilian populations, and constantly shelling the Gaza Strip is the occupying party, Israel.  This core fact of the conflict has become lost in some misguided desire to create symmetry between Palestinians and Israelis.  International and humanitarian laws classify an occupied people as “protected persons,” and every signatory to the Fourth Geneva Convention, including the US, has an obligation to interfere to stop this cruel and inhumane Israeli collective punishment of Palestinians. 

Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines war crimes as: "Wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including...wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, …or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial, ...extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly." 

International law does not release from responsibility an occupying force because it apologizes for killing those it occupies, especially an occupying force that has instilled a mode of operation of systematically killing and then cynically apologizing. 

Israel kills with purpose.  Following the rise to government of the hard line Hamas movement to the Palestinian government, Israel is optimizing on the US led campaign to bring a full collapse of the democratically-elected Palestinian government, by killing on a daily basis of what the world’s media has sadly accepted as “targeted assassinations.” There is a clear political agenda in the latest round of Israeli attacks.  Israel is begging for Hamas to react in kind by breaking its one sided truce that Hamas has held for over a year, despite Israel’s continued provocations. 

Israel knows that as it continues to cage Palestinians in pockets of living hell, it is human nature that sooner or later the Palestinian government or even Palestinian individuals will be forced into reacting by trying to defend its population, never mind that the Palestinians do not have the means to even dent the Israeli military powerhouse.  Nevertheless, by the Palestinians striking back, and sadly taking Israeli lives in the process, Israel can then kick into action its well-oiled public relations spin machine to turn the tables on the entire Palestinian cause for independence and self-determination and thus, further continue the delegitimization and the demise of the Palestinians. 

Israel’s renowned planning efforts forgot one elementary fact of life.  Like with slavery, there was a right and wrong and in the end right prevailed and slavery ended.  And, like with South Africa’s Apartheid, there was a right and wrong, and the racist Apartheid system fell flat on its face.  The Israelis have forgotten that militarily occupying the Palestinians -- for over forty years now -- is wrong too, and their occupation will come tumbling down in due time.  Sadly, as Israeli politicians do cartwheels to sustain their oppression of Palestinians, or maintain their popularity with the dead bodies of Palestinians, both Palestinians and Israelis are paying the price with their lives. 

The writer is a Palestinian-American living in the besieged Palestinian City of El-Bireh in the West Bank.  He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994) and can be reached at 

June 9, 2006


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Thursday, June 08, 2006

[ePalestine] The Israeli Boycott of Palestinian Education
June 7, 2006
Can the Anti-Boycotters Please Stand Up?
The Israeli Boycott of Palestinian Education


In the flurry of letters and comments against the boycott of Israeli academics who, according to Natfhe, are complicit through their work or silence, in the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the reality facing the other side of the coin, that of Palestinian academics, researchers and educational institutions, has been ignored. The crux of the anti-boycott but pro-peace argument is that academia is one of the few places where constructive argument is possible, and Israeli academic freedom is the cornerstone for the push for change in Israeli policy and ultimately, for the end of military occupation in the Palestinian territories. 

The circle this argument fails to close is that without the freedom of Palestinian education the prospect of any genuine dialogue on the long-term solution to the conflict cannot materialise. And in the absence of a sizeable and meaningful denunciation of Israeli clampdowns on Palestinian education, what other mechanisms are there to awaken the pro-dialogue, pro- peace camp? 

Under Israeli occupation, all eleven Palestinian universities have been closed, the longest being Birzeit between 1988 and 1992, and the most recent Hebron Polytechnic which was closed by military order for 8 months in 2003. During these periods community-based classes were criminalized and its teachers and students arrested. Since 2000, 185 schools have been shelled and scores of teachers and students have been shot at and arrested. Then there are the less extreme but just as effective obstacles like the 700 restrictions of movement by checkpoints, road-blocks and earth mounds. Through creating and controlling a system of internal borders in the occupied territories, the Israeli military prevents students from accessing Palestinian universities far from their homes. University campuses are then increasingly ghettoised; Birzeit now attracts the vast majority of its new students from the Ramallah and Jerusalem areas, and its intake of people from Jenin has dropped by 100%. This also means students are limited in their course choices; 12 students from Gaza have been denied permission to go to Bethlehem and study Occupational Therapy (a course not available in Gaza) despite them not representing a security threat to Israel--a point the military admitted at the Israeli High Court where the decision is currently being challenged. 

However, the latest round of Israeli attacks on Palestinian education has been through the control of its external borders. As an occupying power, Israel is legally responsible for guaranteeing all human necessities and rights in the occupied territories, including the right to education, and is in de facto control of all that goes in and out of the territories, including foreign academics, researchers and students. 

Those wishing to study or work in Palestinian universities have to go through farcical procedures that are bad at the best of times. Students are often denied entry if they reveal they will be based inside the occupied territories. This is so common that Palestinian universities even advise students to claim they will be tourists in Tel Aviv instead. While other countries' foreign students are given visas for the duration of their courses, in the occupied territories they suffer the stress of insecurity and the burden of having to lie--itself in breach of their universal right of access to education. The overall message here is clear: if you want to study, you cannot do it in Palestine. 

Only in March this year, two students from the internationally well-reputed Birzeit University in the West Bank were interrogated, humiliated and deported, without being given any explanation. The European female student was called a prostitute for having had a relationship with a Palestinian man, accused of having separatist tendencies for coming from a German-speaking minority in northern Italy, and asked why she didn't study Hebrew instead of Arabic. The American student received even worse treatment. He was strip searched, yelled at, called an "arsehole", had his face photographed as if he were a criminal, and when it transpired he was half-Arab the interrogator responded "what a pity, what a pity". 

University faculty members and staff with foreign passports undergo similar ordeals. Most have to leave the country every three months just like the foreign students despite having built their professional and family lives in the West Bank. They have no guarantees they will be able to stay from one visa application to the next. A few lucky ones are given 6-months visas from the Israeli military administration in the settlement of Bet El, but despite being allowed to make in-country applications, they still have no guarantees the application will be successful. If the pro-peace camp is serious about the sanctity of academic freedom, one of first things they should be actively protecting is the access of academic staff and students to Palestinian universities, especially if they are also serious about wanting a partner for dialogue. 

In March 2006, two faculty members of Birzeit University have had their visa renewals rejected, one of which has been deported. After being shouted at and humiliated by young soldiers, the faculty members were told they had abused the visa system--despite having never overstayed--and were denied re-entry. Both had been legally living in the West Bank since the 1990s and neither was given any explanation for why they had suddenly become a threat to Israel. 

As arbitrary and outrageous as it already seems, the repression of Palestinian education casts its net even wider. In February 2006, a research student linked to a prestigious British university was detained for 8 hours, asked to become an informant for Israeli services and denied a visa for his PhD research. In April 2006, the well-known assistant professor at Columbia University in New York, Joseph Massad, was refused entry to attend a conference at a university in the West Bank. In May 2006, the British human rights lawyer, Kate Maynard, was refused entry to attend a legal conference in Jerusalem, and less than one week ago, a volunteer with the Ramallah-based human rights research office Al-Haq, was deported. 

The systematic obstruction of Palestinian education not only violates the human rights of the individuals involved, but is also an attack on the development of Palestinian society as a whole. It should also be stressed that none of the people mentioned here were given any legal justification for their visa refusals, and given the carte blanche status of the 'security' argument in Israel, and anywhere in the world, it is clear that had their activities posed a genuine threat to the state of Israel (however tenuous the link) they would have been arrested and charged, even if later deported. None of them were. 

It is increasingly apparent that any academic activity --be it research, debate or voluntary work --on the mere subject of Palestine, in Palestine, is either obstructed or forbidden. So while Israeli academics and political figures are busy mobilizing their supporters worldwide to protect the academic freedom of their intellectuals and institutions, other academics, researchers and students exercising their academic freedom in Palestine, are effectively being boycotted. The objective of this boycott is to thwart the advancement of Palestinian educational institutions, networks and discourse, and although any nationality can be subjected to it, its target is in fact the constitution of Palestinian education itself. 

If the asymmetries of the facts on the ground are not enough to justify the boycott of Israeli academia, then at the very least the limitations and pretence of the pro-dialogue argument must be realised. If there is no boycott of Israeli academia and current circumstances persist, Israeli academics would turn into the gatekeepers of any debate on Israel-Palestine--for only their freedoms would be secured by the Israeli state. What would be of the pro-dialogue, pro- peace anti-boycotters then? Where would they find their authentic 'partners' to dialogue with? The legitimacy of the fight for Israeli intellectual freedom is in itself dependant on there being the same freedom for Palestinians. Such a basic and fundamental point should be a no- brainer but yet it continues to be conveniently ignored by those claiming to have the most equitable and long-standing interests at heart. 

Laura Ribeiro is Coordinator of the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University on the West Bank. She can be reached at: 


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