Monday, August 20, 2007

[ePalestine] IHT: A debt culture gone awry (A Must Read - from TEHRAN on US)

International Herald Tribune

A debt culture gone awry
By Hamid Varzi
Friday, August 17, 2007


The U.S. economy, once the envy of the world, is now viewed across the globe with suspicion. America has become shackled by an immovable mountain of debt that endangers its prosperity and threatens to bring the rest of the world economy crashing down with it. 

The ongoing sub-prime mortgage crisis, a result of irresponsible lending policies designed to generate commissions for unscrupulous brokers, presages far deeper problems in a U.S. economy that is beginning to resemble a giant smoke-and-mirrors Ponzi scheme. And this has not been lost on the rest of the world. 

This new reality has had unfortunate side effects that go beyond economics. As a banker working in the heart of the Muslim world, I have been amazed by the depth and breadth of anti-Americanism, even among U.S. allies, manifested in reactions ranging from fierce anger to stoic fatalism. Muslims outside the United States interpret America's policies in the Middle East not as an effort to spread democracy but as a blatant neocolonialist attempt to solve its economic problems by force. Arabs and Persians alike argue that America's fiscal irresponsibility has forced the nation to seek solutions through military aggression. 

Many believe that America's misguided adventure in Iraq was a desperate attempt to capture both a reliable source of cheap oil and a major export market for the United States. 

The United States borrows a whopping $2.5 billion daily from abroad to service its burgeoning debt. In order to continue borrowing at reasonable interest rates America needs to retain credibility with its overseas creditors, especially Far Eastern nations running huge trade surpluses. A cessation of foreign lending would force the Fed to raise interest rates to attract money, precipitating a collapse of the already weak housing market and pushing the economy into recession. 

This is why the Chinese, in particular, have threatened to retaliate against proposed U.S. trade sanctions by reducing their $1.3 trillion in dollar holdings. 

The U.S. debt situation is so grave that the Chinese would not even need to "dump dollars" to precipitate a meltdown but could simply refuse to extend further credit: They could cease purchasing additional Treasury Bonds and Treasury Bills, without selling any excess inventory. China has the far stronger hand, because a run on the dollar would merely reduce China's gigantic cash surplus while increasing America's debt burden to astronomical levels. 

U.S. debt affects all nations, but in surprisingly different ways: Third world farmers suffer from the effects of gigantic U.S. farm subsidies aimed at reducing the trade deficit, while Russia has actually profited from America's lack of discipline. 

Flush with funds generated from a decade of trade and account surpluses, Russia views U.S. sensitivity to its expansionist energy policy as a response to America's own failure to reduce energy waste and exploit alternative energy sources when it had the opportunity to do so. In sum, American economic decadence has become a source of Russian strength. 

America's supply-side economists argue that there is nothing wrong with going into debt, but this is valid only as long as a nation and its consumers are gaining something in return. 

What have Americans gained from their nation's mountain of debt? A crumbling infrastructure, a manufacturing base that has declined 60 percent since World War II, a rise in the wealth gap, the lowest consumer-savings rate since the depths of the Great Depression, 50 million Americans without health insurance, an educational system in decline and a shrinking dollar that makes foreign travel a luxury. 

The best cars, the best bridges and highways, the fastest trains and the tallest buildings are all to be found outside America's borders. Supply-siders ignore the crucial distinction between, on the one hand, debt employed as an investment vehicle to enhance competitiveness and, on the other, debt used to pay off current expenses and to create even more debt. 

The bottom line is that America is awash in red ink and seeks the wrong solutions to its debt problems. A return to fiscal responsibility would make America far stronger, both domestically and internationally, than would a continuation of current policies that falsely project strength through idle protectionist threats and failed military aggression. 

Current tensions between the United States and the rest of the world will continue as long as America's military bark is louder than its economic bite. 

A solution to the U.S. debt problem requires radical measures, including: the elimination of corporate tax loopholes, a reversal of tax breaks for the ultra-rich, a bipartisan campaign to eliminate budget "pork," imposition of stringent limits on corporate debt and speculative lending, a vast reduction in military expenditure and, finally, an additional 50 cent per gallon gasoline tax that would slash the federal deficit, curtail energy waste and spur technological breakthroughs. 

Let us hope America heeds the warnings, dispenses with junk-food economics and embraces a crucial diet of fiscal discipline. It remains to be seen, however, whether America's political leaders have the courage to instigate such reforms, and whether Congress is finally willing to do something for the future of ordinary, hard-working Americans. 

Hamid Varzi is an economist and banker based in Tehran. 

International Herald Tribune
Copyright © 2007


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Thursday, August 16, 2007

[ePalestine] A Curious Double Standard / Width Matters / Boycott movement targets Israel

A Curious Double Standard

Six months ago, the Israeli Defense Ministry and the Israeli Defense Forces issued an order that declared any unauthorized construction in the West Bank a criminal offense. The order had been issued as a result of an investigation by Talia Sasson , a former state prosecutor, which revealed that Israeli state bodies had been secretly diverting millions of dollars to build unauthorized, illegal outposts in the West Bank.

This week, the order was revoked following complaints from a group of attorneys known as the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, who advocate for settlers' rights. According to an August 13 article in Haaretz, the Defense Ministry revoked the order because the attorneys claimed it "violated the basic civil rights of the West Bank settlers." One wonders how the Israeli government rules it legal for its citizens to build on occupied land without any authorization, when Palestinians under Israeli occupation are forced to obtain an Israeli permit to build on their own land. 

Source: AAI (


Width Matters

Displacement and Israel's Wall


Width matters. Semantic disputes concerning the Israeli Palestinian conflict have existed for years. Arguments continue over Jimmy Carter's use of the word "apartheid" to describe the system under which Palestinians live in Israeli administered areas. These areas are called "Judea-Samaria" and considered "disputed" land by the Israeli camp while others refer to them as the "West Bank" and "occupied". Finally the term, "The Wall" , is dismissed by Israel as a misrepresentation of the controversial structure it is building. Supporters of Israel claim that only a small percent of the structure consists of a 25 feet high concrete wall. The remainder is considered a simple wire "fence" that can not be equated with a wall. In reality, neither of these descriptors conveys the structure's essential nature. 

The structure is more accurately understood by its width, not its height. Winding its way down from the northern most point of the West Bank it leaves in its wake a 65 to 87 yard wide swath of bulldozed land on which trenches, barbed wire, footprint tracer paths, a two-lane patrol road and watch towers have been placed. From edge to edge, the structure exceeds the width of six lane segments of Interstate 95 or half the length of a football field. 

When one considers the expansive reach of the structure and that eighty percent of it has been built on Palestinian land, the enormity of its impact on Palestinian society is understood. Local and international NGO's concur that the completed sections of the planned 416 mile long structure have incurred property damage numbering in the tens of thousands of agricultural and grazing acres destroyed, olive and fruit trees uprooted, homes, commercial buildings, greenhouses, infrastructure and water wells demolished. 

These figures do not take into account the social deprivations caused by the bisecting of villages in the structure's path. Thousands of Palestinians have been dislocated or separated from families, employment, medical services, schools, farms and water sources. Cities, towns and villages are already separated by 250 running miles of by- pass roads built on Palestinian land and designated for Israeli use only. In conjunction with hundreds of checkpoints and road barriers, Palestinians are constantly bumping up against the physical manifestations of Israeli settlement that deny them freedom of movement and the ability to live normal lives. 

The terms "Wall" and "Fence" mistakenly evoke an image of the vertical displacement of mere air. These terms fail to convey the permanent displacement at ground level of enormous expanses of land, property and people. Understanding width matters. It imparts a realistic understanding of the structure's impact on Palestinian society and its long term effects on the possibility of an independent state. It affirms long standing Palestinian grievances which are commonly denied. It illuminates Israel's extensive violations of international laws designed to protect occupied peoples. It widens the public's perspective on Palestinian/Israeli issues and the understanding that for peace to succeed justice matters. 

Susan Miller is an American and Israeli citizen who lived in Jerusalem from 1969-1980. She is active in organizations working for peace in the Middle East. She currently resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 


San Francisco Chronicle

Boycott movement targets Israel

George Bisharat
Wednesday, August 15, 2007

When does a citizen-led boycott of a state become morally justified?

That question is raised by an expanding academic, cultural and economic boycott of Israel. The movement joins churches, unions, professional societies and other groups based in the United States, Canada, Europe and South Africa. It has elicited dramatic reactions from Israel's supporters. U.S. labor leaders have condemned British unions, representing millions of workers, for supporting the Israel boycott. American academics have been frantically gathering signatures against the boycott, and have mounted a prominent advertising campaign in American newspapers - unwittingly elevating the controversy further in the public eye.

Israel's defenders have protested that Israel is not the worst human-rights offender in the world, and singling it out is hypocrisy, or even anti-Semitism. Rhetorically, this shifts focus from Israel's human rights record to the imagined motives of its critics.

But "the worst first" has never been the rule for whom to boycott. Had it been, the Pol Pot regime, not apartheid South Africa, would have been targeted in the past. It was not - Cambodia's ties to the West were insufficient to make any embargo effective. Boycotting North Korea today would be similarly futile. Should every other quest for justice be put on hold as a result?

In contrast, the boycott of South Africa had grip. The opprobrium suffered by white South Africans unquestionably helped persuade them to yield to the just demands of the black majority. Israel, too, assiduously guards its public image. A dense web of economic and cultural relations also ties it to the West. That - and its irrefutably documented human-rights violations - render it ripe for boycott.

What state actions should trigger a boycott? Expelling or intimidating into flight a country's majority population, then denying them internationally recognized rights to return to their homes? Israel has done that.

Seizing, without compensation, the properties of hundreds of thousands of refugees? Israel has done that.

Systematically torturing detainees, many held without trial? Israel has done that.

Assassinating its opponents, including those living in territories it occupies? Israel has done that.

Demolishing thousands of homes belonging to one national group, and settling its own people in another nation's land? Israel has done that. No country with such a record, whether first or 50th worst in the world, can credibly protest a boycott.

Apartheid South Africa provides another useful standard. How does Israel's behavior toward Palestinians compare to former South Africa's treatment of blacks? It is similar or worse, say a number of South Africans, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, U.N. special rapporteur in the occupied territories John Dugard, and African National Congress member and government minister Ronnie Kasrils. The latter observed recently that apartheid South Africa never used fighter jets to attack ANC activists, and judged Israel's violent control of Palestinians as "10 times worse." Dual laws for Jewish settlers and Palestinians, segregated roads and housing, and restrictions on Palestinians' freedom of movement strongly recall apartheid South Africa. If boycotting apartheid South Africa was appropriate, it is equally fair to boycott Israel on a similar record.

Israel has been singled out, but not as its defenders complain. Instead, Israel has been enveloped in a cocoon of impunity. Our government has vetoed 41 U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Israeli actions - half of the total U.S. vetoes since the birth of the United Nations - thus enabling Israel's continuing abuses. The Bush administration has announced an increase in military aid to Israel to $30 billion for the coming decade.

Other military occupations and human-rights abusers have faced considerably rougher treatment. Just recall Iraq's 1990 takeover of Kuwait. Perhaps the United Nations should have long ago issued Israel the ultimatum it gave Iraq - and enforced it. Israel's occupation of Arab lands has now exceeded 40 years.

Iran, Sudan and Syria have all been targeted for federal and state-level sanctions. Even the City of Beverly Hills is contemplating Iran divestment actions, following the lead of Los Angeles, which approved Iran divestment legislation in June. Yet the Islamic Republic of Iran has never attacked its neighbors nor occupied their territories. It is merely suspected of aspiring to the same nuclear weapons Israel already possesses.

Politicians worldwide, and American ones especially, have failed us. Our leaders, from the executive branch to Congress, have dithered, or cheered Israel on, as it devoured the land base for a Palestinian state. Their collective irresponsibility dooms both Palestinians and Israelis to a future of strife and insecurity, and undermines our global stature. If politicians cannot lead the way, then citizens must. That is why boycotting Israel has become both necessary and justified.

George Bisharat is a professor of law at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, and writes frequently on law and politics in the Middle East.

This article appeared on page B - 9 of the San Francisco Chronicle


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Sunday, August 12, 2007

[ePalestine] Occupation 101 - A Must Watch Video

Click either of these links to view the entire video:

Facts always outweigh (peace) fantasy or fiction,

------- Forwarded message follows -------

Date sent:                  Sun, 12 Aug 2007 11:14:45 -0700 (PDT)
From:                         Occupation 101 <>
Subject:                     THANK YOU!

Dear friends and supporters of Occupation 101

We want to thank you for supporting our film and the message that it carries. We wanted to give you a friendly reminder to let you know that our film is NOW out on DVD for purchase at  . If you already have a copy share it with your friends and family.

We want our friends and supports that are not in
North America  to know that we are working hard to have the film ready for them GOD WILLING in the fall of 2007 so please be patient with us. All of you can make a difference by sharing this film with the people around you. Show it to them, buy it for them, or just give them your copy. The more people know about these injustices that are happening the closer we get to stopping this horrible oppression.

And finally thank you all for the great support that you have given us. We want you to know that this film has been truly the people’s film, because you are getting the message out to those who do not know. Again thank you and GOD bless you all.


Occupation 101 team.

“I am not a liberator. Liberators do not exist. The people liberate themselves.”
Che Guevara  

------- End of forwarded message -------


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Saturday, August 11, 2007

[ePalestine] LRB: The Middle East Peace Process Scam (by Henry Siegman)

London Review of Books            
LRB | Vol. 29 No. 16 dated 16 August 2007 | Henry Siegman 

The Middle East Peace Process Scam 
Henry Siegman 

When Ehud Olmert and George W. Bush met at the White House in June, they concluded that Hamas’s violent ousting of Fatah from Gaza – which brought down the Palestinian national unity government brokered by the Saudis in Mecca in March – had presented the world with a new ‘window of opportunity’.[*] (Never has a failed peace process enjoyed so many windows of opportunity.) Hamas’s isolation in Gaza, Olmert and Bush agreed, would allow them to grant generous concessions to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, giving him the credibility he needed with the Palestinian people in order to prevail over Hamas. 

Both Bush and Olmert have spoken endlessly of their commitment to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, but it is their determination to bring down Hamas rather than to build up a Palestinian state that animates their new-found enthusiasm for making Abbas look good. That is why their expectation that Hamas will be defeated is illusory. Palestinian moderates will never prevail over those considered extremists, since what defines moderation for Olmert is Palestinian acquiescence in Israel’s dismemberment of Palestinian territory. In the end, what Olmert and his government are prepared to offer Palestinians will be rejected by Abbas no less than by Hamas, and will only confirm to Palestinians the futility of Abbas’s moderation and justify its rejection by Hamas. Equally illusory are Bush’s expectations of what will be achieved by the conference he recently announced would be held in the autumn (it has now been downgraded to a ‘meeting’). In his view, all previous peace initiatives have failed largely, if not exclusively, because Palestinians were not ready for a state of their own. The meeting will therefore focus narrowly on Palestinian institution- building and reform, under the tutelage of Tony Blair, the Quartet’s newly appointed envoy. 

In fact, all previous peace initiatives have got nowhere for a reason that neither Bush nor the EU has had the political courage to acknowledge. That reason is the consensus reached long ago by Israel’s decision-making elites that Israel will never allow the emergence of a Palestinian state which denies it effective military and economic control of the West Bank. To be sure, Israel would allow – indeed, it would insist on – the creation of a number of isolated enclaves that Palestinians could call a state, but only in order to prevent the creation of a binational state in which Palestinians would be the majority. 

The Middle East peace process may well be the most spectacular deception in modern diplomatic history. Since the failed Camp David summit of 2000, and actually well before it, Israel’s interest in a peace process – other than for the purpose of obtaining Palestinian and international acceptance of the status quo – has been a fiction that has served primarily to provide cover for its systematic confiscation of Palestinian land and an occupation whose goal, according to the former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon, is ‘to sear deep into the consciousness of Palestinians that they are a defeated people’. In his reluctant embrace of the Oslo Accords, and his distaste for the settlers, Yitzhak Rabin may have been the exception to this, but even he did not entertain a return of Palestinian territory beyond the so- called Allon Plan, which allowed Israel to retain the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank. 

Anyone familiar with Israel’s relentless confiscations of Palestinian territory – based on a plan devised, overseen and implemented by Ariel Sharon – knows that the objective of its settlement enterprise in the West Bank has been largely achieved. Gaza, the evacuation of whose settlements was so naively hailed by the international community as the heroic achievement of a man newly committed to an honourable peace with the Palestinians, was intended to serve as the first in a series of Palestinian bantustans. Gaza’s situation shows us what these bantustans will look like if their residents do not behave as Israel wants. 

Israel’s disingenuous commitment to a peace process and a two-state solution is precisely what has made possible its open-ended occupation and dismemberment of Palestinian territory. And the Quartet – with the EU, the UN secretary general and Russia obediently following Washington’s lead – has collaborated with and provided cover for this deception by accepting Israel’s claim that it has been unable to find a deserving Palestinian peace partner. 

Just one year after the 1967 war, Moshe Dayan, a former IDF chief of staff who at the time was minister of defence, described his plan for the future as ‘the current reality in the territories’. ‘The plan,’ he said, ‘is being implemented in actual fact. What exists today must remain as a permanent arrangement in the West Bank.’ Ten years later, at a conference in Tel Aviv, Dayan said: ‘The question is not “What is the solution?” but “How do we live without a solution?”’ Geoffrey Aronson, who has monitored the settlement enterprise from its beginnings, summarises the situation as follows: 

Living without a solution, then as now, was understood by Israel as the key to maximising the benefits of conquest while minimising the burdens and dangers of retreat or formal annexation. This commitment to the status quo, however, disguised a programme of expansion that generations of Israeli leaders supported as enabling, through Israeli settlement, the dynamic transformation of the territories and the expansion of effective Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan River. 

In an interview in Ha’aretz in 2004, Dov Weissglas, chef de cabinet to the then prime minister, Ariel Sharon, described the strategic goal of Sharon’s diplomacy as being to secure the support of the White House and Congress for Israeli measures that would place the peace process and Palestinian statehood in ‘formaldehyde’. It is a fiendishly appropriate metaphor: formaldehyde uniquely prevents the deterioration of dead bodies, and sometimes creates the illusion that they are still alive. Weissglas explains that the purpose of Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, and the dismantling of several isolated settlements in the West Bank, was to gain US acceptance of Israel’s unilateralism, not to set a precedent for an eventual withdrawal from the West Bank. The limited withdrawals were intended to provide Israel with the political room to deepen and widen its presence in the West Bank, and that is what they achieved. In a letter to Sharon, Bush wrote: ‘In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centres, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.’ 

In a recent interview in Ha’aretz, James Wolfensohn, who was the Quartet’s representative at the time of the Gaza disengagement, said that Israel and the US had systematically undermined the agreement he helped forge in 2005 between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and had instead turned Gaza into a vast prison. The official behind this, he told Ha’aretz, was Elliott Abrams, the deputy national security adviser. ‘Every aspect’ of the agreement Wolfensohn had brokered ‘was abrogated’. 

Another recent interview in Ha’aretz, with Haggai Alon, who was a senior adviser to Amir Peretz at the Ministry of Defence, is even more revealing. Alon accuses the IDF (whose most senior officers increasingly are themselves settlers) of working clandestinely to further the settlers’ interests. The IDF, Alon says, ignores the Supreme Court’s instructions about the path the so-called security fence should follow, instead ‘setting a route that will not enable the establishment of a Palestinian state’. Alon told Ha’aretz that when in 2005 politicians signed an agreement with the Palestinians to ease restrictions on Palestinians travelling in the territories (part of the deal that Wolfensohn had worked on), the IDF eased them for settlers instead. For Palestinians, the number of checkpoints doubled. According to Alon, the IDF is ‘carrying out an apartheid policy’ that is emptying Hebron of Arabs and Judaising (his term) the Jordan Valley, while it co-operates openly with the settlers in an attempt to make a two- state solution impossible. 

A new UN map of the West Bank, produced by the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, gives a comprehensive picture of the situation. Israeli civilian and military infrastructure has rendered 40 per cent of the territory off limits to Palestinians. The rest of the territory, including major population centres such as Nablus and Jericho, is split into enclaves; movement between them is restricted by 450 roadblocks and 70 manned checkpoints. The UN found that what remains is an area very similar to that set aside for the Palestinian population in Israeli security proposals in the aftermath of the 1967 war. It also found that changes now underway to the infrastructure of the territories – including a network of highways that bypass and isolate Palestinian towns – would serve to formalise the de facto cantonisation of the West Bank. 

These are the realities on the ground that the uninformed and/or cynical blather in Jerusalem, Washington and Brussels – about waiting for Palestinians to reform their institutions, democratise their culture, dismantle the ‘infrastructures of terror’ and halt all violence and incitement before peace negotiations can begin – seeks to drown out. Given the vast power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinians – not to mention the vast preponderance of diplomatic support enjoyed by Israel from precisely those countries that one would have expected to compensate diplomatically for the military imbalance – nothing will change for the better without the US, the EU and other international actors finally facing up to what have long been the fundamental impediments to peace. 

These impediments include the assumption, implicit in Israel’s occupation policy, that if no peace agreement is reached, the ‘default setting’ of UN Security Council Resolution 242 is the indefinite continuation of Israel’s occupation. If this reading were true, the resolution would actually be inviting an occupying power that wishes to retain its adversary’s territory to do so simply by means of avoiding peace talks – which is exactly what Israel has been doing. In fact, the introductory statement to Resolution 242 declares that territory cannot be acquired by war, implying that if the parties cannot reach agreement, the occupier must withdraw to the status quo ante: that, logically, is 242’s default setting. Had there been a sincere intention on Israel’s part to withdraw from the territories, surely forty years should have been more than enough time in which to reach an agreement. 

Israel’s contention has long been that since no Palestinian state existed before the 1967 war, there is no recognised border to which Israel can withdraw, because the pre-1967 border was merely an armistice line. Moreover, since Resolution 242 calls for a ‘just and lasting peace’ that will allow ‘every state in the area [to] live in security’, Israel holds that it must be allowed to change the armistice line, either bilaterally or unilaterally, to make it secure before it ends the occupation. This is a specious argument for many reasons, but principally because UN General Assembly Partition Resolution 181 of 1947, which established the Jewish state’s international legitimacy, also recognised the remaining Palestinian territory outside the new state’s borders as the equally legitimate patrimony of Palestine’s Arab population on which they were entitled to establish their own state, and it mapped the borders of that territory with great precision. Resolution 181’s affirmation of the right of Palestine’s Arab population to national self-determination was based on normative law and the democratic principles that grant statehood to the majority population. (At the time, Arabs constituted two-thirds of the population in Palestine.) This right does not evaporate because of delays in its implementation. 

In the course of a war launched by Arab countries that sought to prevent the implementation of the UN partition resolution, Israel enlarged its territory by 50 per cent. If it is illegal to acquire territory as a result of war, then the question now cannot conceivably be how much additional Palestinian territory Israel may confiscate, but rather how much of the territory it acquired in the course of the war of 1948 it is allowed to retain. At the very least, if ‘adjustments’ are to be made to the 1949 armistice line, these should be made on Israel’s side of that line, not the Palestinians’. 

Clearly, the obstacle to resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict has not been a dearth of peace initiatives or peace envoys. Nor has it been the violence to which Palestinians have resorted in their struggle to rid themselves of Israel’s occupation, even when that violence has despicably targeted Israel’s civilian population. It is not to sanction the murder of civilians to observe that such violence occurs, sooner or later, in most situations in which a people’s drive for national self-determination is frustrated by an occupying power. Indeed, Israel’s own struggle for national independence was no exception. According to the historian Benny Morris, in this conflict it was the Irgun that first targeted civilians. In Righteous Victims, Morris writes that the upsurge of Arab terrorism in 1937 ‘triggered a wave of Irgun bombings against Arab crowds and buses, introducing a new dimension to the conflict.’ While in the past Arabs had ‘sniped at cars and pedestrians and occasionally lobbed a grenade, often killing or injuring a few bystanders or passengers’, now ‘for the first time, massive bombs were placed in crowded Arab centres, and dozens of people were indiscriminately murdered and maimed.’ Morris notes that ‘this “innovation” soon found Arab imitators.’ 

Underlying Israel’s efforts to retain the occupied territories is the fact that it has never really considered the West Bank as occupied territory, despite its pro forma acceptance of that designation. Israelis see the Palestinian areas as ‘contested’ territory to which they have claims no less compelling than the Palestinians, international law and UN resolutions notwithstanding. This is a view that was made explicit for the first time by Sharon in an op-ed essay published on the front page of the New York Times on 9 June 2002. The use of the biblical designations of Judea and Samaria to describe the territories, terms which were formerly employed only by the Likud but are now de rigueur for Labour Party stalwarts as well, is a reflection of a common Israeli view. That the former prime minister Ehud Barak (now Olmert’s defence minister) endlessly describes the territorial proposals he made at the Camp David summit as expressions of Israel’s ‘generosity’, and never as an acknowledgment of Palestinian rights, is another example of this mindset. Indeed, the term ‘Palestinian rights’ seems not to exist in Israel’s lexicon. 

The problem is not, as Israelis often claim, that Palestinians do not know how to compromise. (Another former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, famously complained that ‘Palestinians take and take while Israel gives and gives.’) That is an indecent charge, since the Palestinians made much the most far-reaching compromise of all when the PLO formally accepted the legitimacy of Israel within the 1949 armistice border. With that concession, Palestinians ceded their claim to more than half the territory that the UN’s partition resolution had assigned to its Arab inhabitants. They have never received any credit for this wrenching concession, made years before Israel agreed that Palestinians had a right to statehood in any part of Palestine. The notion that further border adjustments should be made at the expense of the 22 per cent of the territory that remains to the Palestinians is deeply offensive to them, and understandably so. 

Nonetheless, the Palestinians agreed at the Camp David summit to adjustments to the pre- 1967 border that would allow large numbers of West Bank settlers – about 70 per cent – to remain within the Jewish state, provided they received comparable territory on Israel’s side of the border. Barak rejected this. To be sure, in the past the Palestinian demand of a right of return was a serious obstacle to a peace agreement. But the Arab League’s peace initiative of 2002 leaves no doubt that Arab countries will accept a nominal and symbolic return of refugees into Israel in numbers approved by Israel, with the overwhelming majority repatriated in the new Palestinian state, their countries of residence, or in other countries prepared to receive them. 

It is the failure of the international community to reject (other than in empty rhetoric) Israel’s notion that the occupation and the creation of ‘facts on the ground’ can go on indefinitely, so long as there is no agreement that is acceptable to Israel, that has defeated all previous peace initiatives and the efforts of all peace envoys. Future efforts will meet the same fate if this fundamental issue is not addressed. 

What is required for a breakthrough is the adoption by the Security Council of a resolution affirming the following: 1. Changes to the pre-1967 situation can be made only by agreement between the parties. Unilateral measures will not receive international recognition. 2. The default setting of Resolution 242, reiterated by Resolution 338, the 1973 ceasefire resolution, is a return by Israel’s occupying forces to the pre-1967 border. 3. If the parties do not reach agreement within 12 months (the implementation of agreements will obviously take longer), the default setting will be invoked by the Security Council. The Security Council will then adopt its own terms for an end to the conflict, and will arrange for an international force to enter the occupied territories to help establish the rule of law, assist Palestinians in building their institutions, assure Israel’s security by preventing cross-border violence, and monitor and oversee the implementation of terms for an end to the conflict. 

If the US and its allies were to take a stand forceful enough to persuade Israel that it will not be allowed to make changes to the pre-1967 situation except by agreement with the Palestinians in permanent status negotiations, there would be no need for complicated peace formulas or celebrity mediators to get a peace process underway. The only thing that an envoy such as Blair can do to put the peace process back on track is to speak the truth about the real impediment to peace. This would also be a historic contribution to the Jewish state, since Israel’s only hope of real long-term security is to have a successful Palestinian state as its neighbour. 



* Rashid Khalidi writes about Hamas and Fatah on p. 31.


Henry Siegman, the director of the US/ Middle East Project, served as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations from 1994 to 2006, and was head of the American Jewish Congress from 1978 to 1994.

copyright © LRB Ltd, 1997-2007


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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

[ePalestine] Colored tags for Arabs' luggage at Ben Gurion airport discontinued

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
Last update - 23:42 07/08/2007
Colored tags for Arabs' luggage at Ben Gurion airport discontinued
By Zohar Blumenkrantz and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents

Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz announced on Tuesday that Ben Gurion International Airport security would no longer mark the luggage belonging to non-Jews with colored tags, in order to spare these passengers embarrassment. 

Instead, Mofaz explained, the luggage of non-Jewish passengers will be stamped with the same color sticker as the Jewish passengers, only with a different number . In the past, the color of the sticker on the passenger's luggage would indicate to airport security personnel the level of security check they must administer. 

This practice mainly affected Arab passengers. 

The security checks at Ben Gurion have been denounced by many in the Arab sector as degrading. "We're talking about frequent degradation of Arab passengers, which causes great anger and frustration," MK Nadia Hilou (Labor) said in January, adding, "I won't leave this subject alone until it has been resolved." 

Though the colored stickers have been discontinued since the beginning of August, the luggage belonging to Arab passengers still undergoes a more thorough security check than that of Jews. The Arabs' luggage is sent to an X-ray scanner with higher resolution. 

According to Transportation Ministry spokesman Avner Ovadia, "the institution of uniformly colored stickers for all passengers aims to prevent a sense of discrimination among various sectors." 

Ovadia added that the numbers on the stickers indicating a more comprehensive security check will change periodically in order to prevent the identification of Arab passengers, and thus prevent a feeling of discrimination. 

However, an Arab resident of Nazareth who frequently flies out of Ben Gurion airport said he had no trouble at all identifying the marked luggage. "This is the exact same system, with a slight change in stickers. In the past, an Arab passenger would receive a red sticker, and now the Arab passenger receives a sticker with the number 5 on it," the man explained. 

Mofaz presented to local authority heads from the Arab sector a plan to minimize the gap between the treatment of Jews and non-Jews and to promote equality. The plan was presented at a conference held at Haifa University. 

The proposal was formulated by a public committee charged with examining the policies of the Transportation Ministry regarding the non-Jewish public. The proposal recommends cutting back the security check process applied to non-Jewish passengers, in accordance with general security instructions. The plan also suggests that over NIS 200 million be invested during each of the next five years in municipal projects involving the non-Jewish sector. 

Mofaz also adopted a string of projects in the infrastructure realm, aimed at relieving hardships currently facing the non-Jewish population. These projects include the construction of a light train connecting Haifa and Nazareth, two cities with relatively high Arab populations. 

The transportation minister intends to bring the committee's proposal before the cabinet for approval. 

Hilou, who vowed to remain in contact with the Transportation Ministry until the issue is resolved, welcomed on Tuesday the initiative aimed at improving the service provided to Arabs. "The trend toward dialogue is welcome, and it must continue. However, I am still receiving complaints. Not all the problems have been solved," she said. 

According to a report by the Nazareth-based Arab Association for Human Rights, security officials at airports often discriminate against Arab passengers. 


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Monday, August 06, 2007

[ePalestine] Architecture as Military Strategy / Palestinian Quakers / Broken Promises...Dreams / The Magnes Zionist

Dear friends,

Sorry for being out of touch recently.  Things are very complicated on the ground and routine business is consuming our time and energy.  Below are some worthwhile resources.

Not buying the peace hype, AGAIN,


ZNet | Israel/Palestine

Architecture as Military Strategy:
A Review of Eyal Weizman's Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation (Verso 2007)
by Ron Jacobs; July 15, 2007


Palestinian Quakers still offer peaceable spirit in troubled land
By Rena Singer
For The Philadelphia Inquirer


This book by a Jewish American woman obstetrician/gynecologist is clear, readable, cogent...

Broken Promises, Broken Dreams

“Broken Promises, Broken Dreams” Stories of Jewish and
Palestinian Trauma and Resilience

by: Alice Rothchild


The Magnes Zionist

My Israeli/American friend of a friend Jerry Haber (a nom de plume) is now writing a blog called, "The Magnes Zionist," which is worthy of your attention. The blog attempts to get Jews to rethink some of their assumptions about Israel, Zionism, and the Palestinians, but in a non-threatening way. Jerry is a liberal orthodox Jew who teaches Jewish studies at a university. Comments are welcome.



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