Thursday, January 10, 2008

[ePalestine] BAHOUR: Bush Peace Hallucinations Continue

Bush Peace Hallucinations Continue

By Sam Bahour

U.S. President George Bush landed in Israel yesterday on his first Presidential trip to the country. He participated in a press conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in what both men termed a “historic” and “monumental” occasion. After listening to both so-called leaders make their opening comments and fielding questions from journalists, the only groundbreaking revelation I could register was that the naiveté of President Bush, either real or a charade, only served the agenda of one party in the region - Hamas. The radical Islamists at Hamas could not have recruited a better cheerleader for their movement if they tried.

My opinion may be extreme, but then again, I live in an extremely violent limbo under Israeli military occupation, shaped by a policy both men continuously refuse to call by its true name – state terror.

Again, my opinion is certainly subjective - but then again, I started my day by reading a communique from the real world: a report issued from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs titled, Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report: Power Shortages In The Gaza Strip (8 January 2008). The report states the background of the issue; on 28 June 2006 the Israeli Air Force bombed the power plant in the Gaza Strip destroying all six transformers and cutting 43% of Gaza’s total power capacity. The report says “households in the Gaza Strip are now experiencing regular power cuts” and goes on to note that “the irregular [electricity] supply causes additional problems. Running water in Gaza is only available in most households for around eight hours per day. If there is no power when water is available, it cannot be pumped above ground level, reducing the availability of running water to between four and six hours per day.” The result of this single punitive measure, as stated in this report, is that if Gaza’s Coastal Municipalities Water Utility “cannot provide its own emergency power supply because of its own fuel shortages, it has to pump raw sewage into the sea which damages the coastline in Gaza, southern Israel and Egypt.”

In another report, released the same day, the World Food Program spokesperson Kirstie Campbell says 70 percent of the population of Gaza has to choose between putting food on the table or a roof over their heads.

For President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert, the fallout expected from the information in these disturbing reports, released one day before President Bush arrived in Israel, was not even worthy of worry. As a matter of fact, the reality that Israel has successfully placed 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, over 50% of them children, in the dark and under the most draconian siege in recent history did not even make it to the footnotes of either leader’s comments.

Instead, much more important issues were on Bush’s agenda. The need to realize and work on a “vision” for the future was in the forefront of President Bush’s mind. According to President Bush, "the parties" should now sit down and "negotiate a vision" – the parties being Israel, the 4th strongest military might in the world and a 40+ year occupier, and the Palestinians, the yet-to-be state of an occupied and displaced people who have been dispossessed by the State of Israel for 60 years and while on the receiving end of a brutal Israeli military occupation for over four decades.

Both Bush and Olmert did send one united message to the world. The two-state solution was still the aim of the negotiations. Reading between the lines, we can infer that the specter of a single state, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, is the most frightening vision of all. The terrifying notion of Palestinians (Muslims and Christians) and Israelis (Jews, Muslims, and Christians) living side by side with equal national and civil rights, has never been so apparent since the struggle in South Africa to end racist white supremacy under Apartheid. To ensure that a one-state solution does not materialize in historic Palestine, the U.S. and Israel talk about a two-state solution, but meantime, the U.S. bankrolls Israel as it continues to create facts on the ground that make any viable Palestinian state impossible.

Prime Minister Olmert was clear beyond a doubt: President Bush has been very, very good for Israel. Olmert was nearly jumping for joy as he praised President Bush for increasing the comprehensive U.S. aid package to Israel to a whopping $30 billion.

The issue of Israeli settlement-building in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem, was raised repeatedly by journalists asking questions. Again, Israel’s Olmert made no excuses; Jerusalem is different, he said, and no one should expect settlements to stop there. As for the other settlements, he said it was complicated and began elucidating the lexicon of "outposts," "population centers," etc. If only this entire settlement enterprise were not threatening Israel’s very own citizens and future, Olmert’s blather would have made excellent comedy material – not to mention President Bush’s weird facial expressions as he sought to evade the barrage of questions asking if the U.S. was ready to apply pressure on Israel to make good on its talk of freezing settlements. The best President Bush was able to come up with impromptu was to remind us all that Israel has been promising for over four years to stop settlements but has yet to do so. Even that came with a chuckle, as if the human tragedy these settlements are causing was a side show. Rarely has Mr. Bush given so persuasive an impression of being detached not just from the facts but from any sort of empathy for the victims of this appalling situation.

All in all, it looks like President Bush came to Israel to speak about Iran. Not only did Mr. Bush seem much more enthused about threatening Iran from Israel; his glaring inability to articulate a basic understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli issue left seasoned Israeli journalists chuckling in disbelief at the President’s replies. The local press corps noted every opportunity seized by Olmert to hitch a ride on each one of President Bush’s superficial comments, lauding the importance of the Bush visit, the Bush commitment to peace, and the Bush courage in confronting the region's difficulties.

Well, next President Bush arrives in my Israeli-occupied city of Al-Bireh/Ramallah. He plans to land two blocks away from my home, in a sports field where I happen to be developing as a commercial project for the Friends (Quaker) School. We were notified today that our street will be one of the many that will be under 100% lockdown. We were advised we would be risking our lives if we went to our rooftop to watch the charade unfold. Public notices from the Palestinian police chief warned that absolutely no protests would be tolerated. In short, we were told to stay indoors. Even our local newspaper advised a civil society campaign I work with that an ad we submitted to be published in today’s newspaper, conveying a message to Bush via a cartoon, would require special approval from the newspaper’s management, given the special circumstance that Bush is in town. (As I write, I’m being advised that our ad, as is, was refused!) So much for running a business, economic development, and freedom of the press. So much for Palestinian democracy too.

As an American and a Palestinian, if I could advise Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on how to greet President Bush today, I would ask him to declare the end of the Palestinian Authority, which Israel has consciously and systematically destroyed. I would ask him to announce that the Palestinians will not accept Rambo-style diplomacy and will revert to international law as the only reference point for resolving the conflict. I would ask President Abbas to request America’s support for non-violent resistance against 60 years of dispossession and 40 years of military occupation by calling for a strategy of boycotting, divestment and sanctions* on Israel until Israel joins the community of law-abiding nations.

But that’s not all. If I were President Abbas I would tell the world that the Palestinian people will remain committed to the two-state solution until the end of 2008, and after that, if the international community fails yet again to end this nightmare of occupation, the Palestinian people will return to their original strategy of calling for one democratic secular state, where Palestinians and Israelis of all religions can live in dignity and mutual respect as equals - one person, one vote, with appropriate arrangements for cultural autonomy for all.

President Abbas could lead now, or we could all sit and wait amid the increasing numbers of funerals, until the climax of the reality forced upon us by Israeli policy engenders a violent path to the same one-state solution that so many fear.

- Sam Bahour is a business consultant and may be reached at


Everything about this list:

To unsubscribe, send mail to:

To subscribe, send mail to:

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

[ePalestine] UPDATE: Campaign for Right of Entry to oPt - Monthly Report

Dear friends,

Sad to report that we are still struggling with the issue of getting the Israeli occupation
authorities to apply international law and common sense in applying a transparent and
accountable system for entry of foreign nationals into the occupied Palestinian territories and
the issuing of permanent residency to those, like myself, who want to be able to permanently
reside with their families.

Most recently, as you will see in the attached monthly report of our Campaign, the church
community is the latest in a growing number of sectors being negatively affected by this
Israeli policy.

Persistence until freedom,


Everything about this list:

To unsubscribe, send mail to:

To subscribe, send mail to:


Everything about this list:

To subscribe, send mail to:

To unsubscribe, send mail to:

Monday, January 07, 2008

[ePalestine] L.A. Times: Israel's false friends + some interview clips

From the Los Angeles Times

Israel's false friends

U.S. presidential candidates aren't doing the Jewish state any favors by offering unconditional support.

By John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt
January 6, 2008 

Once again, as the presidential campaign season gets underway, the leading candidates are going to enormous lengths to demonstrate their devotion to the state of Israel and their steadfast commitment to its "special relationship" with the United States. 

Each of the main contenders emphatically favors giving Israel extraordinary material and diplomatic support -- continuing the more than $3 billion in foreign aid each year to a country whose per capita income is now 29th in the world. They also believe that this aid should be given unconditionally. None of them criticizes Israel's conduct, even when its actions threaten U.S. interests, are at odds with American values or even when they are harmful to Israel itself. In short, the candidates believe that the U.S. should support Israel no matter what it does. 

Such pandering is hardly surprising, because contenders for high office routinely court special interest groups, and Israel's staunchest supporters -- the Israel lobby, as we have termed it -- expect it. Politicians do not want to offend Jewish Americans or "Christian Zionists," two groups that are deeply engaged in the political process. Candidates fear, with some justification, that even well-intentioned criticism of Israel's policies may lead these groups to turn against them and back their opponents instead. 

If this happened, trouble would arise on many fronts. Israel's friends in the media would take aim at the candidate, and campaign contributions from pro-Israel individuals and political action committees would go elsewhere. Moreover, most Jewish voters live in states with many electoral votes, which increases their weight in close elections (remember Florida in 2000?), and a candidate seen as insufficiently committed to Israel would lose some of their support. And no Republican would want to alienate the pro-Israel subset of the Christian evangelical movement, which is a significant part of the GOP base. 

Indeed, even suggesting that the U.S. adopt a more impartial stance toward the Israeli- Palestinian conflict can get a candidate into serious trouble. When Howard Dean proposed during the 2004 campaign that the United States take a more "evenhanded" role in the peace process, he was severely criticized by prominent Democrats, and a rival for the nomination, Sen. Joe Lieberman, accused him of "selling Israel down the river" and said Dean's comments were "irresponsible." 

Word quickly spread in the American Jewish community that Dean was hostile to Israel, even though his campaign co-chair was a former president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Dean had been strongly pro-Israel throughout his career. The candidates in the 2008 election surely want to avoid Dean's fate, so they are all trying to prove that they are Israel's best friend. 

These candidates, however, are no friends of Israel. They are facilitating its pursuit of self- destructive policies that no true friend would favor. 

The key issue here is the future of Gaza and the West Bank, which Israel conquered in 1967 and still controls. Israel faces a stark choice regarding these territories, which are home to roughly 3.8 million Palestinians. It can opt for a two-state solution, turning over almost all of the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians and allowing them to create a viable state on those lands in return for a comprehensive peace agreement designed to allow Israel to live securely within its pre-1967 borders (with some minor modifications). Or it can retain control of the territories it occupies or surrounds, building more settlements and bypass roads and confining the Palestinians to a handful of impoverished enclaves in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel would control the borders around those enclaves and the air above them, thus severely restricting the Palestinians' freedom of movement. 

But if Israel chooses this second option, it will lead to an apartheid state. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said as much when he recently proclaimed that if "the two-state solution collapses," Israel will "face a South African-style struggle." He went so far as to argue that "as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished." Similarly, Israel's deputy prime minister, Haim Ramon, said earlier this month that "the occupation is a threat to the existence of the state of Israel." Other Israelis, as well as Jimmy Carter and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have warned that continuing the occupation will turn Israel into an apartheid state. Nevertheless, Israel continues to expand its settlements on the West Bank while the plight of the Palestinians worsens. 

Given this grim situation, one would expect the presidential candidates, who claim to care deeply about Israel, to be sounding the alarm and energetically championing a two-state solution. One would expect them to have encouraged President Bush to put significant pressure on both the Israelis and the Palestinians at the recent Annapolis conference and to keep the pressure on when he visits the region this week. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently observed, settling this conflict is also in America's interest, not to mention the Palestinians'. 

One would certainly expect Hillary Clinton to be leading the charge here. After all, she wisely and bravely called for establishing a Palestinian state "that is on the same footing as other states" in 1998, when it was still politically incorrect to use the words "Palestinian state" openly. Moreover, her husband not only championed a two-state solution as president but he laid out the famous "Clinton parameters" in December 2000, which outline the only realistic deal for ending the conflict. 

But what is Clinton saying now that she is a candidate? She said hardly anything about pushing the peace process forward at Annapolis, and remained silent when Rice criticized Israel's subsequent announcement that it planned to build more than 300 new housing units in East Jerusalem. More important, both she and GOP aspirant Rudy Giuliani recently proclaimed that Jerusalem must remain undivided, a position that is at odds with the Clinton parameters and virtually guarantees that there will be no Palestinian state. 

Sen. Clinton's behavior is hardly unusual among the candidates for president. Barack Obama, who expressed some sympathy for the Palestinians before he set his sights on the White House, now has little to say about their plight, and he too said little about what should have been done at Annapolis to facilitate peace. The other major contenders are ardent in their declarations of support for Israel, and none of them apparently sees a two-state solution as so urgent that they should press both sides to reach an agreement. As Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former U.S. national security advisor and now a senior advisor to Obama, noted, "The presidential candidates don't see any payoff in addressing the Israel-Palestinian issue." But they do see a significant political payoff in backing Israel to the hilt, even when it is pursuing a policy -- colonizing the West Bank -- that is morally and strategically bankrupt. 

In short, the presidential candidates are no friends of Israel. They are like most U.S. politicians, who reflexively mouth pro-Israel platitudes while continuing to endorse and subsidize policies that are in fact harmful to the Jewish state. A genuine friend would tell Israel that it was acting foolishly, and would do whatever he or she could to get Israel to change its misguided behavior. And that will require challenging the special interest groups whose hard-line views have been obstacles to peace for many years. 

As former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami argued in 2006, the American presidents who have made the greatest contribution to peace -- Carter and George H.W. Bush -- succeeded because they were "ready to confront Israel head-on and overlook the sensibilities of her friends in America." If the Democratic and Republican contenders were true friends of Israel, they would be warning it about the danger of becoming an apartheid state, just as Carter did. 

Moreover, they would be calling for an end to the occupation and the creation of a viable Palestinian state. And they would be calling for the United States to act as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians so that Washington could pressure both sides to accept a solution based on the Clinton parameters. Implementing a final-status agreement will be difficult and take a number of years, but it is imperative that the two sides formally agree on the solution and then implement it in ways that protect each side. 

But Israel's false friends cannot say any of these things, or even discuss the issue honestly. Why? Because they fear that speaking the truth would incur the wrath of the hard-liners who dominate the main organizations in the Israel lobby. So Israel will end up controlling Gaza and the West Bank for the foreseeable future, turning itself into an apartheid state in the process. And all of this will be done with the backing of its so-called friends, including the current presidential candidates. With friends like them, who needs enemies? 

John J. Mearsheimer is a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. Stephen M. Walt is a professor of international affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. They are the authors of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," published last year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

Copyright 2008 Los Angeles Times 

PLEASE consider writing a brief letter (it only takes 10 minutes) to the editor thanking the paper for publishing this op-ed: .  Please include your full name, mailing address and daytime phone number (your number will not be published). 


A few interviews with me that may interest you:

Sunday, January 6, 2008
Dictatorship Of The Bourgeoisie, Please

Creative entrepreneur in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
December 31, 2007 by skipschiel

TV Chicagoland
JANUARY 2008: Interview with Sam Bahour January 2008
TV Chicagoland/30 Minutes TV interviews American Palestinnian Activist Sam Bahour in mid-December 2007 at the Ambassador Hotel in Arab East Jerusalem in Occupied Palestine.


Everything about this list:

To unsubscribe, send mail to:

To subscribe, send mail to: